The special SELF-PUB modules for How To Think Sideways Self-Pub

How not to be THIS self-publisher.
How not to be THIS self-publisher.

I took a break from putting together a cool HTTS Hotseat today with a writer who needed to know how to create a villain for her story.

Got out a notebook, wrote out the existing modules in How To Think Sideways, and figured out how to streamline the HTTS Self-Pub course.


All current Think Sideways Classic students, as well as all Think Sideways grads,
will get ALL the new modules, and will keep all of the old ones.

If you are in Think Sideways Classic
or have graduated from the class,

HTTS Classic students and grads
get ALL the old modules
and ALL the new ones.

The modules I’m removing from of HTTS Self-Pub are:

  • How To Discover (Or Create) Your Project’s Market
  • How To Design Compelling Queries, Proposals, And Sample Chapters
  • How To Work With Editors, Agents, Marketing Departments, And Artists, And NOT Wreck Your Project
  • How To Deliver What You Promised And What They Want On Deadline

I’ll be replacing them with:

  • The Special Skills of Self-Pub Market Creation
  • Identify and Connect With Your Target Reader
  • What To Do When You’re Writer, Publisher, Art Department, and Marketing And How To Schedule Your Time
  • How to Deliver What Your Readers Want


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51 responses to “The special SELF-PUB modules for How To Think Sideways Self-Pub”

  1. John McMullen Avatar
    John McMullen

    I’m one of your Sideways students (uh, that sounds kinda odd). Anyway, being the proud new owner of a Kobo ebook reader, I’ve been converting the course materials to .epub format so they can live on my Kobo.

    I can’t say I’m any great shakes at conversion, but I’m happy to send them to you so you can save a couple of minutes anyway on the conversion process.

    (My process? Uh, I save the PDF as text, manually convert to xhtml, then check against the PDF to see what I should be changing. Haven’t gotten to adding covers yet–didn’t care for personal use. And then I convert to epub using Calibre. So there are better ways, but I’m teaching myself the .epub format this way.

    (Yeah, your conversion can be nicer and easier–you have source files.)

    Anyway–not many converted, but contact me be email if you want the converted ones so you can cut them down for the epub version.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Not sure there will be an e-pub version. Between the movies, the audio, the forum, the worksheets, the handouts, and, of course, the lessons themselves, there is currently no way to package the whole thing and sell it other than the way I already am.

      But I do have someone working with me on trying to figure out HOW. If I can figure out HOW, the WHY is already obvious.

  2. Amy Avatar

    This is great! I love all your books but Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood is one of my favorites – so glad there will be more! I’m excited about the HTTS self-pub course too. I haven’t written much fiction, but would like to write more. And reading your writing advice over the years has helped me, actually, as a technical writer and editor, and as a middle school language arts teacher, too. Thank you Holly!

  3. EliseInAZ Avatar

    I’d like to echo Miuchelle and Hugh. Without the approval stamp and input of an agent, editor, and publishing house, how do you know your work is good enough to publish?

    I think we’re all afraid of self-pubbing a book and embarrassing ourselves. Or worse, losing readers forever because of the lack of quality in our writing.

    So what is the alternative to the “experts” in this new world? Dean Wesley Smith says to just publish what you’ve done and keep learning. John Locke has his feedback from readers.

    How do you find those trusted readers?

    Hiring an editor to do content editing is expensive.

    I’ve been in critique groups and gotten both good and bad feedback. There have been times I’ve felt like the soul of my book is being lost in trying to satisfy the critics. There have also been times when I’ve appreciated that other set of eyes that found my overuse of “that” or some such thing. I’m not currently in a critique group because it’s so hard to find the right mix of people who are committed to the process.

    I’ve tried the ask a friend to read through your book route and, so far, haven’t gotten anyone to read the whole book and supply good feedback. Besides, they’re friends.

    Or is PERFECT getting in my way again?

  4. SJ Driscoll Avatar

    Thanks for the new modules, Holly. As one of the original HTTS students, I really appreciate you keeping us in the loop.

    Since high school (which was a long time ago), I’ve been involved in what used to be called small press publishing, but to get other writers’ work in print, not mine. Putting out my own work is a whole new world.

    I have several previously published short stories and others that are unpublished, probably 12-15 altogether from flash length up, that seem worth turning into an ebook. They’re not all the same genre–a few SF, a few romance-y, a couple of mystery types.

    I’m wondering if I should put them all together to make a single good-sized ebook, break them into separate little books by genre, or put out each story individually? I can think of good and bad reasons to do each.

    The worst way seems to be to put each of them out individually but, for all I know, that might be the best way.



  5. Miuchelle Lord Avatar

    I am working on getting through the HTTS course and glad the new modules are coming on line, as I really think self-publishing really is the way to go for several reasons. I guess my question would be since you will not have an editor, agent, whoever checking your work how do you know it is truly ready to publish? Are a couple of unbiased readers good enough? Do you need to seek out an editor in your genre to proof it?

    I guess my other question is can you sell books in a genre that is already over saturated if your books are priced correctly and well written, i.e. vampires, werewolves, etc.

    Holly, your courses are great and keep up the good work.

  6. Brian Avatar

    Thanks for doing this, Holly — I can’t wait to see the finished product!!!

  7. Gloria Avatar

    What format should my book be in to have it self-published? Where do I mail my manuscript to? If I am self-publishing, how do I find the right Printer? What are the things I should watch out for when choosing a Printer? What information do I need to tell the Printer? How much should I expect to pay? How do I know what price to set on my book? How do I know how many copies to have printed? What should I do about having my work edited? What about cover art and illustrations? How do I go about finding an illustrator? How do I connect with the right person(s) to get a review or a recommendation for my book? Is self-publishing the same valuable in getting my name known as professional publishing (I have heard that self-publishers are not taken seriously)? How do I promote my self-published books? Do book stores purchase self-published books as readily as professionally published books? What about ISBN numbers? Are there legal considerations I need to know about?

  8. Sue Santore Avatar

    I can’t wait to get the new modules on self-publishing. That’s the direction I’m headed in. In fact, I have a book that’s been out of print for many years that I’ve requested back the rights to.

    Why does it take them nine months to legally give me back the rights to my own book when they haven’t had it in print for twenty years?

  9. Hugh Avatar

    As a writer struggling to finish my first book, I am intimidated and exhilarated by the prospect of e-publishing.

    * If you publish traditionally, you at least have an external and unbiased agency insuring your work is up to professional standards – they’re betting money on it. The flip side of this is, of course, you may never be published even if you write the Great American Novel. How can I be sure my stuff is good enough?

    * I barely have time enough for my writing. How do I find time for web logging, tweeting, face-whatevering…. I’m reasonably tech savvy, but I have no idea how or why anyone uses facebook. While I don’t expect you to provide instruction at that basic a level, a pointer to a Facebook 101 for those in the really slow lane would be handy. Ditto for tweets, whom I’m almost sure aren’t cartoon canaries.

    * If I e-publish I’ll be hiring out for covers and editing, and perhaps formatting for different types of e-readers, and I can’t even guess at what else. How do I find people who will do these jobs, do them well, and not rip me off?

    * There are a zillion e-books out there, many of them dreadful. John Locke comes to mind. His philosophy seems to be, “It’s not that good, but it’s cheap.” How do those of us who aspire to quality compete and distinguish ourselves from the dreck?

    *E-publishing seems to favor established authors with a back list, or people who can churn out ‘books’ at a rapid clip. Is that true? If so, how can those of us who fit neither category make e-books profitable?

    I probably could come up with a dozen other questions, but most of them, like some of the above, are rooted in sheer ignorance of the new landscape. How do we explore it without getting stuck in the quicksand or eaten by alligators?

    Thanks so much for doing all the work you do,

  10. Brian Jeffreys Avatar
    Brian Jeffreys

    I have done very well after taking your HTTS and HTRN courses, including having 3 Amazon best sellers! While I have learned the secrets of making ePub documents (Calibre is a huge help), I’ve noticed that it is next to impossible to get a book published for the Apple iBookstore. Any advice?

    1. Gary Speer Avatar

      I have purchased and am reading a very useful Kindle book about self-publishing. Don’t want to recommend a title if that’s forbidden here — but “Let’s Get Digital: How to Self-Publish and Why You Should” gives a really good overview. It’s a Kindle book available from and among other things it discusses ways to get your book formatted and available at a variety of outlets, including a sort of “back door” entry into the iBookstore.


      1. Holly Avatar

        I encourage you to recommend titles of self-publishing books you’ve found useful.

        The core of HTTS is and will remain how to write a story worth reading: the technical details of using Facebook, formatting your e-book, designing your cover, etc., are, as I’ve noted frequently, available for cheap from places like Kindle, and for FREE from the service providers themselves (Twitter, CreateSpace, Lulu, etc. have huge resources devoted to teaching novices how to use their services).

        The less time I can devote to subjects covered extensively elsewhere, the more time I can devote to subjects NO ONE covers.

  11. Prue Avatar

    I feel so at sea with e-publishing. So my question is this:

    I have a short story ready to go. It’s as good as I can get it.
    I decide to self-publish online.
    In simple steps what do I need to do? Because I haven’t a clue.

    I guess I need self-publishing online for Dummies or similar ๐Ÿ˜€

    Holly, I’m sure whatever you put into the new re-vamped HTTS will be useful. It has to be when I know diddly squat about it! And thanks very much for making it available to HTTS students. You rock!

    1. Diana Layne Avatar

      I just finished reading this book by Zoe Winters on how to self-publish.
      There are also others listed below on that page. I’m looking forward to Holly’s new modules on self-pub, I’m one of the original HTTS grads as well as a HTRYN grad.

  12. Jennifer Avatar

    So, I’m new to this self publishing idea, but intrigued.

    One of my knee-jerk reactions is something along the lines of “..but will I ever see my book in print..?”

    I am really drawn to the control aspect of self publishing though. ~rubs chin~ I guess my question would be if there is/are ways of going the self publish route but still getting printed copies of your work. Corny maybe, but it’s part of my dream. I realize it would probably mean putting the cash up front for the “books” and possibly having to sell them myself, but I’d be really interested in what options are available for that kind of thing.


  13. CathWren Avatar

    I’m interested in knowing how to find the right editor for my work. IOW, I don’t write romance so I don’t think an editor who usually edits romances wouldn’t be a good fit but an editor who edits mysteries or fantasy would be the right fit.

    I’m looking forward to seeing where you take this course.

  14. Anika Avatar

    I would like to know some more about the difference between flat fee services and services which take a percentage of your royalties for the life of your project. What things you should watch out for, what you really need to know if you’re going to use one of those service companies that take payment in royalties.

    I would like to know how to create a professional looking book. What goes into it, if you’re doing this properly.

    Thank you so much.

  15. james Avatar

    I dislike paying some third party a lot of money because I couldn’t be bothered to learn something if I only looked into the details.

    I currently use Scrivener (on Windows). And yes, Scrivener does currently produce .epub and .mobi out of the box. How many markets do those two formats cover?

    How many formats other than mobi and epub should I be familiar with in order to cover the most ereaders?

    I am a software professional so I could invest the time to learn what I need to know in order to produce those various formats myself, but are there already programs available that convert between the various formats that I should be interested in? Is Calibre enough?

    Are there wonderful features that I could add to my ebooks if I learned the details of a given format or are the features of most ebook readers similar enough that I would be wasting my time? I’m specifically thinking about multimedia here. Or maybe I want to supply an exotic font when my characters read the signs in a fantasy novel.

    Where is a description (hopefully a web page) of each format that I can read and use as a reference in case I have problems?

    Should I buy one of each hardware device that I intend to support or are the software emulators provided by the various manufacturers accurate enough simulations of the real thing that I would be wasting my money?

    How concerned should I be about offering a traditional hard (or soft) cover book for my readers?

  16. Rachael (KissWithAFist) Avatar

    All those modules sound great!

    For me the main thing I’m trying to figure out and would like advice on is how to decide which parts you should do yourself, and which parts you should outsource when it comes to editors, cover designers, book interior formatters etc. Obviously it all depends on the writer’s skills, and how much time and money you have, but having a system to figure it out would be something I’d be really interested in.

  17. Deborah Turner Avatar

    Thanks, Holly. I’m looking forward to this new information. My first publisher was basically a hybrid self/subsidy publisher. I did the editing, they printed (POD) and I marketed. NOT a good fit for people who didn’t know either how to edit themselves or how to market.

    Marketing has always been the hardest part for me. It’s hard to beat my own drum. I’ve set up a blog now, and am attracting people on Facebook and LinkedIn, but think I could do a better job. I’m a little shy about beating my own drum.

    1. Hugh Avatar

      Yeah! How does one go about beating that drum?

  18. Vanessa W. Avatar

    I would love sample contracts for artists, editors, and all the other folks we’ll need to make agreements with to get our books out the door…

    Also, A breakdown on the costs of self-pub would also keep us out of hot water…just a range of prices we can expect …there’s nothing worse than under-estimating a project’s costs and having to either give it up or wait to finish it.

  19. Gary Speer Avatar

    I’m interested in all the questions/suggestions that have already been posted here.

    I’m especially interested in some “how-to” stuff about pricing on ebooks (I’m most interested in Kindle).

    Also, any really practical, effective “how-to” stuff about formatting for Kindle and the other major ebook formats. I’ve read some about formatting, and I hear one author say simply uploading a PDF file and letting Kindle format from that works. Another author will say use a basic Word document and Kindle handles it just fine. Yet other authors insist you have to hand code paragraph-by-paragraph into HTML to get a Kindle book formatted properly.

    Anything aimed at “how-tos” for those of us who can’t afford to pay for design and formatting as we’re starting out.

    Thanks so much, Hollly, for your work. And as someone already said in these replies, it’s great to hear your HTTS and HTWS grads will get the new self-pub modules free.

    1. Rachael (KissWithAFist) Avatar

      have you looked at the actually Kindly Publishing site? I’ve read over their how-to on formatting and it seems pretty comprehensive, you should check it out.

  20. Kari Wolfe Avatar

    You might definitely consider a discussion on analytics for both your website, your Twitter feed(s), Facebook pages, Google+ stream, etc. How do you know when you’re attracting people to your website, even if they’re not leaving comments?

    You know, this is a WHOLE ‘nuther ballgame altogether–and something I keep skirting around the edges of: the marketing ideas for self-published authors. There are several really good sites that talk about blogging and how to increase your readership as well as how to create the momentum and the push to purchase your books.

    How to avoid getting so absorbed in social media and blogging that you forget to write. I wonder who THAT resembles… ๐Ÿ˜€

    I think time management will be a HUGE issue for a lot of people. If you look at what we’ve chosen to do, it really feels almost overwhelming:

    Writing, editing, layout, uploading (and while these last three can be farmed out to give you less to do, I think in the beginning a lot of us won’t be able to AFFORD to do that.)

    Then marketing to Twitter, Facebook, Google+ (all without giving people the feeling that the only reason you’re connected to them in the first place is that you want them to buy something), and developing relationships like what John talks about in his book can take time, lots of time.

    I’m really, really looking forward to these modules ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Carol Englehaupt Avatar

    My biggest concern with e-pubbing, at this point, is finding reliable, trustworthy companies to supply cover art and formatting. You’ve already given a suggestion for formatting and website but, as a newbie to publishing, I don’t even know enough to know what kind of help I need to get my book from me to the public. There are a lot of people out there offering to help and they all want a piece of my budget. I need to get the most for my money without breaking my budget, and be happy with the final product.

    How long should something take to do? I don’t even know how to plan for a publication date since I don’t know how long each thing takes to accomplish.

    I’m already assuming that my first book is my learning book and all these questions will be answered by doing it but I’d like some information up front to know if I’m getting a good deal, or not.

  22. LindaJeanne Avatar

    This sounds fantastic. And thank you so much for making the new modules available to current HTTS students!

    I just signed up for the HTTS class about a week and a half ago. Since I’m leaning towards self-publishing, I’m glad that I’m not missing out on the self-pub specific stuff, just because I didn’t procrastinate a couple weeks longer.

  23. Texanne Avatar

    I’m with Megan. In fact, what I’m doing this morning is trying to work out, as Megan says, my “battle rhythm” (wonderful phrase).

    I had always intended to self-publish, but in paper. Now, with the e-pubs and places like Smashwords, Lulu, and Create Space, everything is easier–but also, it seems, everything is coming at me all at once. I need six arms, like you. :)TX

  24. Shawn Hansen Avatar

    Hi Holly,

    Thanks again for moving forward with this project and sharing with the rest of us.

    I have two self-publishing questions:

    #1 โ€“ I want to publish under my own company, and I don’t want to use my own name. I have the company name, the URL, and the logo design, but how do I go about making my company legitimate/legally recognized? Copyright? Incorporate? LLC? Bloodletting?

    #2 โ€“ There are some tempting offers out there through Smashwords and BookBrewer for ISBNs and distribution. What are the Pros and Cons surrounding using such a service versus doing it all on my own?

    I am really excited with the direction you are taking–the timing for my needs is perfect.

    Thanks again for all you do and share,
    Shawn Hansen

  25. laura chaney Avatar
    laura chaney

    Thank you. One topic I think would be important to discuss is pricing. Obviously people including myself want to pay less than the cost of a print book for an e-book. I think that is a big part of the attraction to buying an e-book especially from newbie authors like most of us. But how do we do that, strike that balance, without pricing so low we de-value our work in the process?

  26. Kit Campbell Avatar

    Fantastic, Holly. I’m looking forward to the new modules.

    I’ve had a self-pubbed novella out for about a year and have got good reviews on it – when people bother to read it. So any marketing help will be amazing.

  27. Calissa Leigh Avatar

    I would really love to have a step by step check list as to where and how to post an ebook to Amazon, B&N and all the places where one can do so. Plus, the top 10 or so places to “announce” that your book was released or steps to marketing. Like with blogs and reviewers or paid advertisements or similar.

    1. Calissa Leigh Avatar

      I say this as someone who has written a nonfiction ebook, with plans to produce more, including fiction, and I’ve managed to simply post it to Amazon and haven’t gotten around to placing it elsewhere or marketing. I’ve been too busy writing and letting myself play the ignorant card. “I don’t know how to do it, so I’ll put it off until later.” Some sort of check list would stop my procrastination.

  28. Anne DeMarsay Avatar
    Anne DeMarsay

    I’m delighted to hear that classic HTTS students will also get the new modules. I’ve been talking to friends in my various aspiring writers’ groups about HTTS, and I think several would be interested in the Self-Pub version. It sounds like a great value! I’m enjoying classic HTTS but as someone else commented, it’s so content-rich that I am a little behind on my lessons, too, despite having opted for the 1-year plan. I’m glad to know that you keep former students “in the fold,” as it were. I don’t feel so pressured, and I may eventually have time to explore the discussion boards, which I haven’t done so far.

  29. Megan Avatar

    Awesome awesome awesome!!
    One thing that I’ve been trying to research, however, is what sort of battle rhythm I should plan for my business. Youโ€™ve done great in your courses helping us break down the math on how to plan for a traditional book and all the follow-on work thatโ€™s necessary for publishing, but I canโ€™t seem to translate that into going Sideways-indie. I tap my pen on my notebook and try to imagine updating websites, formatting manuscripts, actually writing, bookkeeping, and all the millions of other support tasks, and I just have no comprehension of the time involved.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Fantastic—I hadn’t considered it, but that’s a PERFECT module for all versions of HTTS. ๐Ÿ˜€

      Consider this a question answered.

      1. Greg Avatar

        Great suggestion, Megan. Time management for any writer is tricky, and for those handling other aspects that come with self-pub, more so. The suggestion made me think of one of my own – money management. Specifically, with self-pub, where to prioritise resources, and what is unnecessary or can safely be done by the author. Cover design, for eg, is in a bit of a grey area for me.

        Best wishes

        1. Holly Lisle Avatar
          Holly Lisle

          Funds allocation (capital investment :D) will be in What To Do When Youโ€™re Writer, Publisher, Art Department, and Marketing And How To Schedule Your Time

          That’s part of the “What to Do”

          1. Greg Avatar

            Fantastic. Thanks for this, and for making sure you “have the courses in place to let other writers create their own careers”.

      2. Dee Avatar

        yay! I think this is in my same vein of questioning. Since writing the book is only the first step, I’m working on setting up a blog now (so I can learn my mistakes in private!) But as Megan said, having that ‘battle rhythm’ (love the name!) for all the other steps in the process would be great! Thanks, Holly! And Megan!

    2. Diana Layne Avatar

      definitely agree! I have to add homeschooling into my schedule too, so it’s been hard figuring it all out especially since I have to do most of the work myself and I’m techno-challenged so I always have a steep learning curve.

  30. Greg Avatar

    Bravo, Holly.

    There’s a very good chance I’ll buy this. Although I’m just finishing one novel, that can only mean one thing: I’m about to start another!
    PtII of the trilogy, as it happens…
    …which reminds me – has your opinion on writing series been changed by self-publishing? By that I mean that I’m sure I’ve seen recently on your website an article/course (found it: How NOT To Write A Series (And Why You Donโ€™t Want To)) on why a series is a bad idea, but yet you’re currently working on sequels of your own.

    Just curious! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Best wishes

    1. Holly Avatar

      This changes everything.

      The problem with series was the artificial barrier of bookstores that would not stock backlist, thus killing a series in three books, and generally taking the writer’s career with it.

      If you’re self-pubbing, you’re going to keep ALL your titles in print (or you’re insane—that would be the ONLY explanation).

      So the artificial barrier is DEAD.

      And both readers AND writers love series. So if you’re a series writer, self-pub is the miracle I didn’t think I’d ever see.

      And that’s why Cady gets her ten books.

      1. Greg Avatar

        Ah, I see. So the problem with series was with the publishing model, rather than any aspect concerned with story-telling.

        And now that barrier is gone ๐Ÿ™‚

        Thanks for the reply.

  31. Nathalie Hamidi Avatar

    Thank you so much for all this work!

    1. Holly Avatar

      I’m excited. I want move back to just writing fiction, but first I want to make sure I have the courses in place to let other writers create their own careers.

      1. Lewinna Avatar

        We appreciate it ๐Ÿ™‚ Your courses and the information you give us are all amazingly helpful. Thank you so much!!

        1. LindaJeanne Avatar

          Second this. Of all the writing information I’ve read and investigated, I’ve found yours, Holly, to be by far the most useful. Thank you so much!

      2. Lia Avatar

        A big thank you from me as well! I have to admit I’m way behind with the walk-through, but I’m following this topic with great interest.

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