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Looking to self publish? New book cuts through the confusion

Depending on whether you know me from the family business days, my current freelance position or you’re just stumbling onto this post, you might not know that while I was studying to become a graphic and web designer, I self published a book.

At the time of self publishing, (despite having the incredible help and guidance of my mother, Jenny Mosher, who had published two or three books for friends and clients by this point) the process was long, tedious, expensive, and resulted in very little exposure. Essentially I had an ISBN and a print run done – no distribution, no marketing, nothing to actually help with sales. I had a total blast creating and producing the book but it wasn’t really a sales-friendly method.

This was around the same time the fire was starting in Jenny’s mind. She’d been constantly researching better ways to get our books out there and hitting dead ends left, right and centre – mainly because of our location in Australia. All the innovation was happening in America and despite the internet and globalisation, we Aussies seemed to be locked out. It seemed impossible to get access to all these great opportunities being created in the US.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about my mother, it’s that you don’t tell her something’s impossible! In the six years between my modest ‘publishing’ job and now, Jenny cracked the American market, tapped into Amazon’s print-on-demand service, created a reliable self publishing model for Australian authors, and now we offer that to authors all around the country. It’s called IndieMosh. We republished my book using the IndieMosh model and I now sell enough copies every month to cover a few bills without a single cent on marketing.

This is what I’m doing if I’m not working on your flyers and newsletters – I’m laying out books for print, creating ebook files, and designing covers. It’s an absolutely brilliant industry to be part of – Aussie authors are among the smartest, most fun people to work with and their creativity constantly astounds me.

But we do find that when authors first approach us, they’re already exhausted and confused from trying to navigate the self publishing scene. What we offer is a guided self publishing process where their book goes out under our publishing label, but what if you want to completely DIY it? Or what if we’re not a good fit for you? Where do you turn then?

In response to that confusion, misinformation and lack of guidance available for Australian authors who want to self publish, Jenny has written Self publishing for Australian authors: What you need to have, know and do. It’s a practical guide in down-to-earth language helping you sort out the decisions you’ll need to make, elements you’ll need to think about and steps you’ll need to take to either self publish your book or find and work with a self publishing facilitator such as IndieMosh.

Obviously I can’t sing Jenny’s praises too much as I’m her daughter – some might say I’m biased 😉 – but I had the honour of beta-reading this book (and updating some of the ‘boomer’ language for my own generation!) and it’s a punchy little book – full of meat with no wasted time. Despite actually working in a self publishing company I found myself learning from it, and I’m full of ideas for my next book now!

If you’re looking into self publishing or you know somebody finishing their new novel or non-fiction masterpiece, have a look at Jenny’s website for more details. You can grab the book as a paperback or an ebook and as at July 6 Jenny is running a pre-order special.

We’re always fascinated to hear about the self publishing experience other Aussie authors have had! If you’re having trouble, or better, if you’ve had success, self publishing, comment and tell me about it – and if you have any questions about what it is we do at IndieMosh, hop on over to the website or feel free to comment here and ask.

Easy Ways to Jazz Up a Word Document

Microsoft Word is an incredibly powerful piece of software, but it’s not really built for designing beautiful posters! And yet, if you’re a small organisation, sometimes it’s all you have. It might be that you can’t use anything else because the boss wants to edit your poster but they don’t want to learn how to use Canva, let alone pay for the Adobe suite. Fair enough – you’re stuck with Word. Let’s work on some simple ways to get better control over your layout and styles and make something half-decent!

This is what we’re starting with:

It’s not exactly eye-catching! Let’s look at some quick and easy ways we can brighten it up.


Images

As a small organisation or a community group it’s unlikely you have a huge stock photo budget, but that doesn’t mean your options are closed! There are plenty of public domain stock photo sites around where you can legally use a nice image.

Head over to Pixabay and have a search. ‘Barbecue’ had some nice results but I found a cute cartoon under ‘Party barbecue’ – sometimes you have to get a bit wider with your keywords! Pixabay tells me my clip art doesn’t even need attribution, so we’re good to go. Download the image you like and move it to the same folder as your poster.

Insert the image (Insert -> Pictures) above your text. Your poster might look something like this:

Already it’s a vast improvement on a text-only poster. But we can take it a bit further. Later versions of Word have a fantastic tool that actually allows you to recolour an image – give it a try! Click once on your image to bring up the Format context menu. On the far left there’s a button called “Color”. I have a few options below with the opportunity to add more:

word-3

Let’s go with that burnt orange colour – it makes me think of burning embers and cooking meat.

So now my poster is getting a bit more interesting, but how about the text? Luckily Word has a few typography tricks up its sleeve …


Fonts and Sizes

Quick: how did you know that “Fonts and Sizes” was a heading? Is it because it’s bigger? A different font? A different colour?

Variations, however subtle, between sections of text can add interest and help the reader tell the difference between a heading, a description, and supplementary information.

In the example above, I’ve done the following:

  1. Changed the font of the header from Calibri to Broadway (a Windows system font)
  2. Moved the heading down slightly from the image
  3. Centred the heading
  4. Coloured the heading the same orange as the image
  5. Made the description bold
  6. Added a space between the description and the supplementary information
  7. Made “Time” and “Place” in the supplementary information bold

That’s about fifteen seconds worth of work and it makes a big difference to the poster already.


Tables and Layout

That supplementary information is still bothering me. I’d like it if things looked a little neater in that section.

You might like to create a table and cut and paste your information into it. In this case I created a table with two columns and three rows, and then I highlighted the cells in the last row, right-clicked, and clicked “Merge Cells” to create the wide row at the bottom.

It’s neater, but the lines are a bit heavy. Luckily we have full control over the inner and outer borders. What if we got rid of all the inner borders and tried something new for the outer border?

To do this, select your table by clicking the four-pointed arrow image to the top-left of the table (it appears when you hover over the top-left corner of the table). When your table is selected, go to the Design context tab and over to Borders. If you click the “Inside Borders” button, you can remove all the inner lines.

word-7

Once your inner lines are gone, go to Borders -> Borders and Shading and set the colours and width for your outside border. You might need to then click the “Outside Borders” button to actually apply this style. Play around until you find something you like.

Note: We could have laid out the supplementary information using Tabs, but these are a little harder to control and applying the border style would have been more complex this way. If you want to throw a box around something but also have it neatly spaced, Tables are still the easiest way to do that!


Borders

Our poster is getting there, but maybe it needs something to pull it all in together. What about a border?

Go to the Design tab and on the far right, click Page Borders. You’ll notice the dialogue box is basically the same as the one you just used to put a border around our table.

I’ve ended up with a bit of a retro feel so I’m going to go with a border that reflects the thick and thin lines in the Broadway font I used for the heading:

I like the border, but now I think it’s too much for my table to have a border too. Let’s get rid of that now (Table Tools -> Design -> Borders -> No Border):


Symbols

Now the bottom of my poster feels a little bare. Maybe I just need something to jazz it up a little:

This little flourish down the bottom is simply a Symbol! Place your cursor where you want your symbol, then go to Insert -> Symbol -> More Symbols. A box will pop up with plenty of symbols for you to choose from. You’ll notice that at the top of the box is a drop-down where you can choose your font. I found these flourishes in the Windings font – Windings is a font made entirely of symbols and can be really useful for your designs!

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Other ideas

This is just one of many ways this poster could have been designed. It’s not a groundbreaking design, but it’s clean and it’s an improvement upon what you were given.

Other ways we might have improved the poster include:

  • Introducing a second colour
  • A background colour (printing it on coloured paper would have a similar effect)
  • More variation in typography (for example, playing with case and letter spacing)
  • A photograph instead of clip art

I’ve deliberately kept this poster simple – it’s going to be passed around the department, possibly being opened in different versions of Word, so we’ve stuck to system fonts and a layout that is unlikely to get ‘broken in transit’ if opened in a different version of Word. Sometimes it’s best to go for a clean, simple design rather than shooting for the stars and having the software fail you.

And sometimes designing for clarity means working on the copy. In the version below I’ve rephrased the “call Edwina” line so that it can be included in the table in the same way that the Time and Date are laid out:

So our final poster is nothing jaw-droppingly innovative, but it’s inoffensive, and it’s immediately apparent what the event is, when it’s happening and who to call if you want to know any more. Viewers can immediately decide if it’s something they’re interested in attending and where to get more information if not.


If we compare the original to the improved version, we can see that even though Microsoft Word isn’t intended for design, it can really bring us quite a long way to a decent document!

What’s your go-to Microsoft Word tip for jazzing up a document?

 

 

5 Great Apps for Small Businesses and Sole Traders

I’ve had the joy of working with some really fantastic business owners in my time at Mosher’s Business Support, and now as a freelancer I’m learning so much about automating business processes and making it easier for myself. What’s brilliant is that so many of the vital apps in my business are free or ridiculously cheap! So in the interest of helping out future business owners, here’s my top 5 of must-have apps:

1. Dropbox

I honestly don’t know how I functioned without cloud storage. How great is it to create a PDF on a desktop computer and view it on your phone or iPad at a meeting? Dropbox for Business is only $13 (AUD) a month and provides a terabyte of storage. The free version provides 8GB of storage, so if you’re just getting started, try out the free version and see how you go.

-> Dropbox

2. MailChimp

Another amazing free service with premium features, MailChimp is vital for maintaining a mailing list and sending out gorgeous HTML styled newsletter emails. MailChimp was especially useful for managing a contact list for my local community theatre – as people booked for plays, we’d add them to that list and then we could send night-before information and review requests at the touch of a button.

-> MailChimp

3. WordPress

It’s hard to go past WordPress as a fantastic way to build a website, but still keep complete control. If you’re a beginner it’s not hard to install a theme and away you go, and if you’re confident with HTML and CSS, you can start playing around with customisations. And, the ultimate perk – it’s free!

-> WordPress

4. Wave Accounting

Programs like MYOB and QuickBooks are fantastic if you have payroll to manage, but if you’re a sole trader or just starting out, Wave is an amazing option. It’s free, and it comes with an app, so you can take payments on the go (using Stripe) and record invoices on your phone to work with later on a computer. I’m a little addicted to their pie charts and graphs!

-> Wave

5. Zapier

I think I need to sign up for an affiliate fee for Zapier – I can’t stop talking about it! Zapier is an incredible piece of software that transmits data between apps. For example, you could set up a ‘Zap’ so that every time someone buys an item from your WordPress online store, it automatically adds them to a MailChimp newsletter list – leaving you time to create gorgeous newsletters and increase the chance of repeat sales. And yes – it’s free (with premium versions).

-> Zapier

 

What app or piece of software is your must-have for business?

 

image credit: kaboompics.com (another great free source, this time for stock photography!)