Saturday, 30 June 2018

The Hippo Hands Over . . . . to Val Portelli

I'm delighted to welcome author Val Portelli back to The Hippo today with a fabulous guest post with a how-to-guide about self-publishing.

                                                  How to self-publish 

Run out of tissues and no fingernails left after waiting for responses from publishers?

Never fear. Self-publishing is here. You’ve already done the hard work in writing the darn thing so it’ll be easy. Right?

First thing to do is restock the tissues, arrange for a daily delivery of chocolate and wine, and realise you will be spending months glued to Podcasts from thousands of experts, giving conflicting advice as they explain how easy it is.

Formatting, page layout and indent sizes will invade your dreams, if you have any time left to sleep. What’s little known is that self-publishing is the world’s best diet as meals become a thing of the past, apart from the chocolate of course.

Remember typewriters? If you do, have the number of a laptop repair person handy. Swipe on an IPad and swipe on a typewriter have different meanings. If you try to use the non-existent big sticky-out thing on the right-hand side of your computer, this will result in it ending up as a shattered mess on the floor.

Note to self: Add hair restorer and house cleaning person to the claim for Indie author expenses.
Formatting for Kindle? Delete all spaces, then spend days deciding whether to insert page breaks, next page, section breaks or continuous page breaks. You will also need a week to discover where these are on your computer, especially if you are using Windows 10. Part of the fun is finding them under the most unlikely tabs, just to confuse you and ensure you are paying attention.

Now to enter page numbers. Not as simple as it sounds as you don’t want numbers to start at one, which is the designated page for your book title. Your actual manuscript will begin around page twenty, after you enter the dedications for everyone who has assisted you so far. Acknowledgement of my name, together with links to my books will take about ten pages. You are welcome to use the remaining space for the contribution by next door’s cat.

Now you have page numbering under control you can go back and delete it all. Kindle allocates its own numbers depending on whether you read in portrait or landscape mode. You also need to take into account whether your prospective reader is in a single or double bed, has a partner who snores, and if they are reading in a south or north facing direction.

The next bundle of joy is inserting a table of contents. A brief pause while you have hysterics and that’s even before we consider inserting links. You will now realise you haven’t thought about a cover, blurb, pricing, territory or genre. Time for a break.

About five years will do while you take university degrees in accountancy, graphic design and marketing. You will also need to study the tax requirements of different countries, in particular whether they have reciprocal arrangements with your home country. (If you live in the states give up now.) Legal proficiency is a must. Best to make this a priority as by the time you understand all the implications of GDPR it will have been replaced by other regulations.

 Your expected income will be 60% of net sale price, less tax, less delivery and advertising costs, less the price of print cartridges and paper, less wine bill (not a legitimate write-off expense,) less bank charges and exchange rate fluctuations. From this you will realise to produce an income of 1p/1cent per book, the price will need to be set at approximately £520. Unfortunately, Auntie Amazon only allows a maximum sale price of approximately £300, and you are competing with a gazillion 99p or free books.

Now for the paperback. Forget everything you have learnt so far. Here’s where the ability to stand on your head and read upside down is particularly useful, as you learn how a physical book is constructed, with a back cover and a spine which is not needed for the Kindle version.

One of your degrees might come in handy here as you work out the spine size relative to the interior and exterior margins, cut offs and bleeds, whether the person (or robot) slicing the book had a good night up the pub, or an argument with their partner, which might make their hand shaky. Don’t forget left is right and vice versa, and the actual size of your book will depend on font and preferences for tall thin ones, short fat ones or something in between.

Now that wasn’t too difficult was it? The next stage will be to tackle marketing and networking. Excuse me for a while. Before beginning the next tutorial, I need to reassure these men in white coats that I’m an author and totally harmless. Now, where did I leave that bottle? Cheers.

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                                                     Author bio

Photo courtesy of Val Portellli

The author’s pen name Voinks began many years ago. It started as a joke when a friend bought a holiday home abroad, then gradually spread through the family, so it was an obvious choice when her first book was published.

Despite receiving her first rejection letter aged nine from some lovely people at a well-known Women’s magazine, she continued writing intermittently until a freak accident left her housebound and going stir crazy.

To save her sanity she completed and had published her first full length novel. This was followed by a second traditionally published book before deciding self-publishing was the way to go. In between writing her longest novel to date at over 100,000 words, she publishes weekly stories for her Facebook author page and web site.

She writes in various genres, although her short stories normally include her trademark twist of ‘Quirky.’ From having too many hours in the day, she is now actively seeking out a planet with forty-eight-hour days, to have time to fit in all the stories waiting to be told.

She is always delighted to receive reviews, as they help pay for food for the Unicorns she breeds in her spare time.

Val's latest book is called Weird and Peculiar Tales. It's a collection of short stories, some written by Val and others by fellow author Paula Harmon. 

Housework fairies, strange events, dragons, unicorns and alternative fairy tales; there’s something for everyone in this unique collection of short stories.

Ranging in length from succinct teasers to longer narratives, the characters mix and match to provide a roller-coaster of emotions. The variety of styles and themes will keep you intrigued until the final ‘And they all lived happily ever after.’

Or did they?

 You can find out more about Val, her books and connect with her using the links below:



  1. You are so spot on, Val, and very funny. You've got the process nailed. That's why we self-published authors probably have more of an author's bum than authors with the support of a whole team to do all those jobs. Author's bum - I have it on good authority from another author that it's a medical condition, honestly :) I'll add your books to my growing to-read list, as you're so funny, but as all authors know, it's so hard for us to find proper time to read. Ah, just another of life's little problems, so I'd like to join you on that 48-hour-day planet when you find it.
    Keep on writing,

  2. Thanks so much, C for providing the medical answer to 'Does my bum look big in this?' I'll keep you on the list for when I discover the rabbit hole leading to the 48 hour day. :D

    1. Writer's bum is my excuse for not going on a diet!:)