How To Be The BEST Author Ever

So I’ve been an author for six months now and I think I can say without a doubt that I know everything there is to know about being an author. Since there is literally nothing left for me to learn, I’ve decided to be generous and share my vast knowledge with my lowly followers.

1. Stop reading!

Seriously, a lot of people will tell you to do the exact opposite, but don’t listen to them! Reading will only cloud your judgment and make your own novel worse. Do you want that to happen? NO. Not only that, but you might accidentally lift elements of that story and end up PLAGERIZING. You SERIOUSLY don’t want to do that, do you? And you waste so much time reading when you SHOULD be using that time for WRITING.

2. Make sure EVERYONE knows about your book!

Marketing is very important! If it’s not obvious that you have a book out when people visit your blog, you’re not going to sell any books! Make sure that there are AT LEAST three links to your book on every blog post, otherwise it’s like you don’t even have a book out. You should always ALWAYS always tell new followers/ commenters of your book and where you can find it. I like to use a copy/paste message with a link to my book on Amazon that I send to everyone who comments on, likes, or follows my blog! This is also a good idea on Twitter, to immediately tell new followers where to buy your book!

3.  Never accept a bad review!

Like I said, marketing is very important! If your book has bad reviews, no one is going to want to read them! You have to be aggressive and go after the bad reviewers, explaining how they’re wrong and telling them to either remove their bad review or change it to AT LEAST a four star review. NEVER accept a one or two star review. That’s career suicide!

4. Make up some Frequently Asked Questions to post an FAQ on your blog!

I understand that many of you starting out may not have enough fans to put together an FAQ, so you can just make some up! By acting like the questions you’re answering are asked a lot it will make it look like you’re more popular than you actually are and get people interested in you and your work!

5.  Always write for the market.

Being an author is a JOB. You’re in it for the money! If you write a book no one wants to read, you’ll end up under a bridge! ALWAYS write about whatever is currently trending. Right now, I’d suggest a vampire BDSM book!

6.  Make sure readers know what your main character looks like!

What is a story without a main character? NOTHING! Your readers NEED to know what your main character looks like, from the color of their eyes to that birthmark on their left buttock. The best way to do this is to open your book with your character looking in the mirror and describing everything they see! It’s both comprehensive and immediate, so your readers will start off knowing just what they look like down to the smallest details!

7. Don’t worry about consistency!

All you need is a good story. If your character loves lemons in chapter one but hates them in chapter ten, no one is going to notice! As long as the story goes on, it doesn’t matter if things are consistent as long as there is lots of action!

8. Make sure your story has an agenda!

You aren’t writing JUST to make money; your book has to SAY something! Whether it be about gay rights or abortion or feminist issues, make sure your book has a hidden agenda! Your book is useless if it just tells a story; it also needs an important lesson that will stick with your readers!

9. Don’t worry about your book cover!

You know the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? It’s completely true! Readers don’t care what your covers look like, they’re only reading your description! Just look at these covers, and these books are published! [1] [2] [3] [4]

Alright, but in all seriousness, don’t listen to any of this advice. (Also, to be fair, books with terrible covers can sell [1] [2] but only if you already have a huge fan base and a bunch of books already out.)

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Are you writing the right story?

Being part of a writing community is fantastic. Whether it be a writers’ group on Facebook (like I’m in) or a close group of friends, it’s nice to know that you can share your passion with someone who understands and get feedback on your work.

Lately, I’ve found myself asking a lot of questions.

“Would you hate this character if he did X?”

“Does this scene come off too creepy?”

“Is this typical for erotica, or should I take it out because it’s not really that sexy?”

While it’s great to have feedback, I realized that I was asking too much. If I asked a question every time I had a doubt about something in my novel, it’d be a list of questions as long as the novel itself. It’s nice to hear that yes, your character Bob does come off as being sensitive and edgy, as you wanted, but if you rely too much on what others say, you’re going to lose your writing voice.

On the same group I started asking too many question to, I see a girl who posts something almost every single day.

“Will this sell even though my character is a strong female who talks back?”

“Will people still buy this even though the romance happened a little too fast?”

“Would you buy a story about a prince and princess if the princess is really smart?”

Basically, this woman is obsessed with what will make her book marketable and what other people want her to write. You should write for your fans, yes, but you HAVE to write for yourself. If you’re not, then you’re going to be miserable.

When you ask yourself whether something is working out or not, you don’t need to ask someone else’s opinion. Analyze the scene in relation to the story at large. Go with your first instinct when writing it all in the first draft, then agonize over those little details in the second or third. The time for getting opinions is during editing, when you have an editor or beta readers looking over your work.

Sometimes you may ask yourself “Am I writing the right story?” If it’s a story you feel needs to be told about characters with strong voices that you’re proud of, then the answer is yes, and you don’t need anyone else’s confirmation to tell you that.

What have you written that you’re most proud of?

Grammar Tips for Editing

Now, I am not an English major. I’ve never really paid attention in English class. I have no formal editing training (or writing training, for that matter) but I consider myself a pretty good editor. (Better when editing something I haven’t written, but I believe that’s true for us all).

How did I get good? Practice, the same as anything else. Google is one of my best friends while editing, not only for fact-checking, but for grammar-checking. Here are some of the most common mistakes I make, listed in no particular order.

Farther verses Further

Farther refers to physical distance, like the car was farther away, while further refers to a more abstract concept, like her orgasm can’t be much further.

Lie verses Lay

You lie down next to your lover. You lay down a blanket first (if you wanna get laid). (More here, because I still mess this up.)

Faze verses Phase

Your two-year-old is going through a phase, but the phases of the moon do not faze him because he is not a werewolf. Phase is like a transition, faze means to be affected by something.

Effect verses Affect

The computer was affected by the lightening, though that had no effect on the student’s final essay because he was a fucking hipster who wrote it all out by candle-light. Affect is a verb and effect is a noun. Affect can be a noun, but very rarely, and I’ve only seen it used like that in a psychology journal, so typically you can ignore that exception.

Assent verses Ascent

The mother signed the permission slip as assent for her son’s ascent of Mount Everest. I think this is a mistake people make not realizing that it’s a mistake they could make. If that makes sense.

Wary verses Weary

The owner was weary of how wary the dog was of everyone. Weary is tired and wary is cautious. Again, I think this follows under the same category as the pairing above.

Rein verses Reign

The peasant pulled on the reins in the rain during the reign of King Charles the Butt. If you mess this up in a fantasy novel, your readers will notice. Probably. (A historical novel, too.)

Again, these are either mistakes I make or mistakes I am paranoid about and Google each time I use them. (I’m looking at you, lie verses lay.)

What mistakes do you most commonly make?

 

Speed Editing

rush

I’d like everyone to repeat after me: Procrastination is bad. Procrastination is bad. Procrastination is bad. 

I am FINALLY ready to start editing Wildflower Crown. It needs SO much work. I need to stick with the schedule I set to get it published on time, hopefully in May or June. (I forget which day I actually circled on the calender, but it’s set for when the weather is warmer.)

Since I procrastinated so much, I want to have the first draft edited by next weekend, not including scenes that need rewritten or just written period. (That will be for the second draft. I’ll have two weeks for that.)

Sometimes I forget that writing is work. It’s fun and I love it, but it really is difficult at times.

I may be a little absent from WordPress this week, so now you’ll know why. It’s because I’m trying to get my ass in gear. (Also, I’m not going to talk about how much school work I have on top of everything. AND on top of that, I have the hiccups. Poor me, I know. :p )

Is anyone else editing too?

Editing Disaster

So I was all ready to edit Only in Whispers. I had everything printed and ready to go. I printed it a while ago, actually, but let’s not talk about how long I put off starting.

Editing the prologue? That was fine. Prologues are short. No big deal.

The first chapter? I realized oh, there are a lot of mistakes. Oops. I got out notebook paper to write down all the notes that didn’t fit on the page.

I got to the fifth chapter, and I realized I made a terrible mistake. You see, editing Kiss of The Fey was a very drawn out affair. I started the very first draft back in high school, but it was just published this September. I had a few years to run through it a few times and get rid of all the nonsense things before I actually printed it out and looked hard for errors.

Only I forgot that I did that. So now I have a printed first draft of complete poo. (Well, not complete poo, but it’s poo enough when trying to edit it by hand.)

I am officially throwing in the towel and typing up the corrections I made so far then doing the rest digitally. It will save me a lot of time and grief.

the horror

the horror

Just Because You Can Write Doesn’t Mean You Should

I’ve known I would be a writer since I was in first grade. My teacher asked us to write three double-spaced pages about a class trip to the moon, and I wrote 10 single-spaced pages (which may be why she always hated me, I hadn’t quite mastered pronoun use at that stage of my life). I wrote “novels” until I was in high school, and then the more reading I did the better my writing got. My high school English teacher praised my writing and encouraged me to keep going, and I continue to improve now.

Writing isn’t easy, and it isn’t supposed to be. If it was, everyone could do it. Writing is a skill like anything else. You don’t expect to be good at basketball the first try or for everyone to be able to swim like an Olympian, so why does everyone seem to think that if you want to write, you can?

I’m not saying that writing should be exclusive. If you want to write, go crazy. Enjoy yourself. However, know that you might not be good enough to get published. I love soccer, but I knew I wasn’t good enough to play for college (and I was only good enough for high school because we had a no cut policy and we were constantly in need of players) so now I can only play for fun. It doesn’t bother me, because I don’t need validation as a soccer player. I know I’ll never be one of the best, but that doesn’t stop myself from enjoying the game when I play.

One of the problem with self-publishing is that it’s so easy that everyone thinks they can become an author. They devalue writing with that kind of attitude. If you like writing, that’s great. Write all you like and take criticism gracefully to allow yourself to improve, but until you honestly believe that you’re a good writer and other people agree, don’t self-publish. You would profit much more from posting your writing on a free site for people to offer helpful critiques, rather than making unsuspecting readers buy a piece of work that should have never been published and making them angry over wasting that money.

I worked in the writing center of my school and let me tell you, I saw some terrible papers. One, of them was, written. Like this. And when, I asked the, girl. Why she, was using. Unnecessary. Punctuation. She said. “I didn’t know sentences could be that long.” Another person’s phrasing was absolutely terrible, and some guy’s paper was so boring and tedious it made my eyes bleed to revise it. These people knew they were bad writers, but there are some people out there who write just as bad but want to be a writer, so they convince themselves that they’re good and that other people are wrong.

Someone asked for feedback on their book, saying that it had been rejected a bunch of times and wanted to know if it was them or the publishers. I read it, couldn’t bare to finish it, and gave her my notes on what was wrong (which was a lot of things, from characterization to plot to grammar to being unrealistic). She ignored me, bashed me for being rude, and then went on to self-publish. Do you think that that book will help the author? She’s not going to make any money on a bad book, and she’s not going to improve in her writing when the reviews will say “don’t buy this book” rather than “maybe if the characters showed some sympathy in chapter five” or “the plot needs to be wrapped up better at the end.”

General Tips to Improve Your Writing:

  1. Take criticism. If someone says “your plot is weak,” they are not being rude. If they say “THIS SUCKS” and nothing else, then they’re being rude. Ignore them and seek more specific reactions.
  2. Write more. The more you write the more you’ll improve.
  3. Read more, especially in your genre. It will help you understand how plots and sentence structure works.

Now, the title of this is a little misleading. If you like writing, I’m not telling you to stop. However, I want every self-published novel I read to be just as good as the traditionally published novels. I want the stigma of self-publishing to go away. The stigma is there because of the people who think writing is for everyone. I want everyone who self-publishes an amazing novel to be able to get the pubic to read that novel, but they can’t do that if those readers first find a terrible self-published book and now won’t touch them.

This post isn’t just criticizing bad writers, it’s just some tough love. Wouldn’t you want someone to tell you that you were a terrible singer before you went on American Idol? (Although, some of those people don’t graciously accept Simon’s decision when they’re told that they’re terrible, just like some people don’t accept that they’re bad writers when they’re told.) A general rule of thumb should be that if you can’t find at least two unbiased non-friends and non-family members who themselves are writers that say you’re a good writer, you probably need to keep practicing.

Writing is a gift, just like musical talent or athletic skills. We need to keep treating it as something special, not as something everyone can do.

“You’re self-published… so, like, not good enough for real publishing?”

A quick reminder that Kiss of The Fey is free on Amazon until Sunday 12/14/14!

There are typically three reactions when I tell someone I’m self-published.

  1. Oh, I’m self-published too! I understand. Let’s discuss relevant book stuff!
  2. Self-publishing? Is that different from publishing? I don’t read much.
  3. Self-publishing? So, a shitty novel that got rejected from everywhere you submitted it to?

Clearly, it’s the third reaction that’s the problem. I will admit upfront that there are lots of self-publishers whose books aren’t good enough to be published. I wrote an entire post about self-publishing fails. I’m not picking on those authors because I understand that some of them don’t really understand what it takes to be successful. They just want to be a writer, and I can sympathize with that. I’ve wanted to be a writer since 3rd grade.

In my internet searches, one article said that self-publishers flood their reviewing service and that they just can’t consider looking at them. Aside from assuming that self-published books are worse, they explain how traditionally published books “…are books that had to find an agent. And then a publisher. And then were professionally edited. And now are being professionally marketed by people with money on the line.” (source) Basically, traditionally published books have more work that go into them.

Ahem. For those of you who haven’t self-published, let me take a quick minute to explain how easy it was to self-publish. First, I wrote a novel. Next, I edited it. Then I edited again. And again. I then went out and found beta readers (sent out my novel to about 50 readers, heard back from 3). I started a blog to start getting people interested in my book. After reviewing the notes of my beta readers, I edited again. I spent hours looking for fonts and pictures for my cover, then I had to actually make my own cover.

I ordered a proof of my book to look at and realized that my cover wouldn’t work. I redid the cover completely. I ordered another proof and made sure there were no errors. I formatted my book for Kindle then released the eBook and the paperback. I looked though book blogs and asked another 50 people to review my book, of which 4 or 5 came through.

I admit that I didn’t get a degree in English or creative writing, but do I need one? I read and I’m a critical reader. I worked at my school’s writing center editing other people’s essays, so why can’t I edit my own novel? What I don’t know on the grammar end, I can Google. My covers aren’t going to be a fantastic piece of work, but they look good if I keep it simple.

To be traditionally published, the author has to write their novel. Then they probably edit it lightly before submitting to an agent. Then they submit to a publishing house. They are accepted and talk with the editor, make the changes that they need to. Someone makes a cover for them. Someone formats everything for them. Someone spends money to market their book and get reviews. These authors spend more time sitting around waiting, but they don’t personally put more work into it.

To say that self-published authors don’t put the same amount of effort into their work is an insult. Yes, there are self-publishers who can’t be assed to edit or make an effort on their cover, and I really think that it hurts the rest of us.

Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t self-publish because I was rejected by a publishing house. I didn’t want a publishing house. There was nothing an indie publisher could give me that I couldn’t give myself, and I didn’t feel like waiting around for 6-8 months wondering if someone sitting at a desk, reading thousands of submissions, would have the patience for my novel after they read the first three paragraphs and threw it aside.

I didn’t want them to say “Congratulations! We’re putting you in print!” and then give me a list of things I had to change to make my book more appealing to the lowest common denominator of readers. I didn’t want itty bitty royalties, or the threat of “write this or else!” to keep a contract. I wanted control of my work, and as someone willing to be patient in waiting for a paycheck, self-publishing was the choice for me.

Another blogger writes, “Despite the wealth of information found online and the relative success of the self-publishing industry, the general public is still impressed by actual publication. They want to read books distributed by well-known houses and imprints… and many will turn up their noses at the idea of a self-published book… Perhaps you are convinced that you’ve written the next Great American Novel… Unfortunately, most people won’t ever recognize your brilliance because of the stigma placed on self-publishing.” (Source)

It’s clear that the problem isn’t self-publishing, but the stigma of self-publishing. As authors, we can’t decide to publish if our manuscript really isn’t ready. Can’t afford an editor? Try to find someone will to trade editing for another skill you may have, like cover editing. Talk to old English teachers and ask, or make writer friends and offer to swap. Stop buying coffee and save up to pay an editor; do whatever it takes to make your novel the best.

Before you publish, get second opinions. Do four out of five out of your beta readers say your novel is crap? Maybe it is. Lots of people want to be writers, but some aren’t cut out for it. Even if you do self-publish, chances are you won’t make a profit. Go on a free site like Wattpad or Fictionpress where you can share you stories for free and get feedback, maybe improve enough to eventually publish.

Self-publishing is real publishing. Publishing is like a popularity contest now. If you have 5000 followers they’ll consider you. If you jump onto the right trend, they’ll milk your story for all they can get. If Stephanie Meyer can get published, and people consider that real publishing, then why not my book? I admit that it’s not perfect, but it’s not the pile of crap that people make it out to be, and that’s the case for lots of self-published authors.

How to Write Better Emotions

Alright, so I actually bought a book about this from Half Price Books, but I’ve only gotten to the second chapter when I no longer had time for it. I’ve never gotten back to it, but I think I got the gist of what the book was trying to say (It was categorized by emotion, so if you knew one emotion you knew the principle that the author would apply to all other emotions). So, here is how you write better emotions!

First, show, don’t tell. “Golly gee,” you might say, “literally every writing advice column ever has said ‘show don’t tell.’ Why don’t you guys shut the fuck up about it already?” Well, I’m sorry, but we’re not going to shut up about it. It’s an important part of writing! Very important! Like, as important as air.

Some people don’t understand the “show, don’t tell” thing, so I’m going to explain it. It’s very simple. You show us what is happening, you don’t tell us. I think people get confused because you’re obviously telling us everything, that’s how the book is written, but that’s not what is meant by this.

Telling: Alice was a very nice girl. Everyone said she was nice, but it embarrassed her when they told her so.

Showing: Alice loved baking, so sometimes she would bake just for fun and take the cookies down to the homeless shelter to share. Everyone at the shelter would tell her how sweet she was, but that made her blush. She just wanted to make sure that everyone had a chance to eat something baked with love.

See? That second one made me tear up a little. Granted, my allergies are really bad and are totally 100% behind the tearing, but doesn’t the second one make you like her so much more? The author isn’t saying “Alice is nice, ACCEPT THIS AS REALITY” like some authors do *AHEMCOUGHCOUGH* STEPHANIE MEYERS *COUGHCOUGH* but she’s showing you how Alice is a genuinely nice person. You believe she’s a nice person, because she bakes cookies for the homeless.

Now, see what showing is verses telling? You can’t make a person feel what you want them to feel when reading your novel if you’re just telling them what to feel rather than making them feel it.

Another example:

1. I was so sad. He broke my heart, now all I could do was cry. I would never be happy again.

2. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t sit still. It was like someone had carved out a hole in my chest. My heart ached, and it felt like something was missing. I felt like my eyes hadn’t been dry since he’d left. Why did he leave like that? He was my something special, the person who made me better. Could I ever smile without him by my side?

I’ll leave you to guess which is showing and which is telling.

One way to practice is to write poetry with short verses. You’ll learn to convey emotion better just because you know you can’t write “I am sad” in a poem. Here’s an example of how it would help:

I’m alone for the last time in the prison of my bed,
holding the tool for my escape.
The silence of the night holds no comfort for me,
and my dreams are filled with terrors.
The house is crawling with the past,
their ghosts constantly haunt me.
I close my eyes for the last time;
maybe I’ll see them again in another life.

Not gonna lie, just picked a poem at random from my poetry folder, I wrote this recently and didn’t really look back at it, I was like “hmmmm, did I write this?” Dur. I’ll post the full poem tomorrow, but here is how that would look if you were telling it in prose.

I lie in bed awake, a knife in hand. I can’t sleep for the nightmares. The house is filled with reminders of the past, always reminding me of the ones I’d lost. I close my eyes and slit my wrist, hoping I’ll see them again.

Obviously, there isn’t so much showing verses telling happening here, but the first one is definitely better at describing, though it’d need some better translation to prose to avoid being purple prose.

That’s about it for the overall lesson, but I’ll list eight (because I’m too lazy to do ten) common emotions and examples of showing verses telling for each one.

 

Anger

T: I was so angry at him! How dare he?

S: My fist clenched and I restrained myself from hitting him. He didn’t deserve to be hit, nothing so tame as that. If he died a thousand times it wouldn’t make up for what he did. How dare he?

 

Confusion

T: I was so confused. Where was I?

S: I looked around at the street signs. None of them were familiar. Was I supposed to go up First Street, or down Peach? I needed to get to get to Platform 9 ¾, but I’d taken a wrong turn. Where the hell was I?

 

Excitement

T: I’m so excited! Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back!

S: I had to restrain myself from jumping out of my seat. I watched as the seconds ticked by, just a few more minutes now! I listened impatiently as the professor ended class, and shot out as soon as he dismissed us. Pumpkin Spice Lattes were finally back, and I was going to get one!

 

Jealousy

T: I was so jealous. That bitch had the best hair.

S: She thought she was so great, with her perfect locks and her perky smile. Everyone knew that she wasn’t naturally blonde. She couldn’t be. No one naturally looked that good.

 

Loneliness

T: I was so lonely. I just wanted a friend.

S: I hugged myself silently. The other kids played on the other side of the playground, but I sat alone on the cold bench. When I invited them to my birthday party last week they laughed at me, so I didn’t ask to play now. I just wanted a friend. Why’d they have to laugh at me?

 

Passion

T: She was consumed with a passion she’d never known before. She had to kiss him everywhere.

S: She kissed him deeply. She wanted to hold him forever, but she couldn’t stop moving; his tongue made her squirm against him. She had to kiss him everywhere. His name was on the tip of her tongue, ready to spill out as he moved inside her.

 

Resignation

T: He was resigned to working in an office the rest of his life.

S: He stared at the blinking line on the screen. He’d typed up his resignation letter, all he had to do was print and sign it. He sighed. What was the use? He was too old to get another job, but too young to retire. Without thinking about it, he deleted it and closed the document. Another ten years in the cube farm wouldn’t kill him.

 

Sadness

T: The old man was sad. All his friends were dead.

S: He sat on his porch and watched the children play. He had children of his own, and grandchildren enough to fill his house twice, but he missed the conversation of his friends. Tom from high school, Allen from the factory. He lived next door to Greg for thirty-two years, but they were all gone now, nothing but tombstones and memories. His friends were all dead, and he was counting down the days until he could join them.

 

If you want to improve your skills, take the telling portions of all of those and write how you would show those emotions. Feel free to make a blog post about it and link to it in the comments!

How to Self-Publish Your Novel Professionally – Step Three: Interior Formatting

pug

Edit: Clearer instructions on page numbering.

Alright, so your content is done. Your cover is done. What’s next? The interior formatting. I’ll tell you right now that I am not going to tell you the easiest way to do this. Why? Because I know nothing about Word. I’m sure some of you will know an easier way than this, but this is how I did it and it worked for me. My print version looks great. It works.

Before anything, you’re going to want to download Createspace’s template. I actually recommend copying the page specifications from that to a new document so that it’s completely fresh. You should have mirrored margins and the page dimensions should be the same as your cover (if that wasn’t obvious). Do not alter their suggested margins. You don’t want your text looking funny.

I used Microsoft Word for all the formatting. I typically use LibreOffice to write, so I had to copy the file over to a computer with Word on it to get everything looking pretty. If you don’t have Word, go to a library and use theirs for a day. You need something with full editing capabilities.

  1. First, you need to do the opening page. This is basically going to be your title restated in print. You can skip that, if you want, but most books have it. Do you want your book to look like other books? If so, don’t skip this.
  2. Next, the copyright. You know how I told you all to apply for copyright for your book? Did you do that yet? (I mean, I didn’t, but that’s because our printer broke, I’ll get to it). You’re gonna need that for this part. You put that in as well as the “this book isn’t based on your mom” thing and “if you pirate this you die” as well as your ISBN.
  3. Third, you can make a page for previous work you’ve published. For me, my third page says “A fairy curse novel” because it’s in that universe. All the other books in the universe will say the same thing, then the back page will have all the books published so far. So if this is part of a sequel, you can put that there. If you want to put reviews like they do in NY Times Bestseller books, go ahead. Also any dedications or acknowledgments.
  4. I then have a blank page. That’s fine. Gotta love blank pages.
  5. Next I have a map someone drew for me. It is the most amateur thing about this entire book, but it looks good enough. I don’t have the money to pay someone so hopefully people will think I’m going for the simple look rather than the poor look.
  6. I have another blank page. Typically, you don’t want anything like the copyright or dedications beside where your story starts. It’s just distracting.
  7. Alright, now the story starts. Notice, I haven’t mentioned page numbers up until now. That’s because you shouldn’t have page numbers before the story starts. Supposedly, if you create a page break between the last page and this page, you can start the numbering at 1, but I couldn’t get it to work, possibly because the document has mirror margins. What I had to do was create three separate documents, one for the pages before the story that didn’t need numbers, one for the story, and one for the part after the story that didn’t need numbers. So now that you’re finished with the first few pages, covert that to a pdf and save it as “Start” or something like that.
    EDIT: You should be able to start the page numbering by inserting a section break at the end of the first section. You then have to unclick the “link to previous” option for both the header and the footer. The footer/header should now say section 1/section 2 and so on. Do the same thing for the last section or for each chapter break if you want a chapter heading in the actual header.
    Formatting the bulk of the story just required common sense. Go through and look for single words that have been left on pages of their own and make sure line breaks look alright. Do NOT use **** for a line break in a printed book or anything like that. It looks super unprofessional. I used two paragraph breaks and started the new section without an indented first line. It works great.
    To start a chapter, you need a chapter heading. Whatever you do, don’t make it a random italic font in large letters. Or Comic Sans. It looks bad. Use the same font you use for the story and make it a few sizes bigger or get a free font off the web that looks cool. Just use your common sense for this one. Do the fonts work? Are they easy to read? Could you expect to pick up a book that looked like that in the bookstore?
    As for page numbers, the mirror margins mean that page 1 and page 2 will be different. So you can put the number for page 1 and all odd numbers on the left and the number for page 2 and all the even numbers on the right. Do not put them on the same side. One of them will be eaten by the book’s spine when printed and it will look like shit.
    If you want, you can also put your name/ the book’s title in the header. Lots of books do this, just “Author Name” on the top of one page and “Book Title” for the next. If you want each chapter to have it’s own header saying which chapter it is, the only way I know how to do this is to break up each chapter into a separate document and convert them to a PDF. It will be extra work, but the finished product should look normal.
    Again, once you finish with the story save it as a PDF named “middle”. Or “farts”. Really, it just has to be something you’ll remember.
  8. Not everyone will have something at the end of the book, but I don’t think it looks right to go from “The End” to the back cover. I added an “About the Author” segment. Again, no page numbers. Make sure that for your proof copy the back cover is left blank, because they’re going to print PROOF real big (assuming you’re using CreateSpace). Save the file as a pdf named “end”.
  9. Alright you now have three separate PDF files. Again, sorry if there is an easier way, but this is how I did it. Go to this site and upload start, middle, and end. Download the result. Upload that to CreateSpace and see if there are any issues.
    If for some reason the margins aren’t coming up right, it could be because you didn’t merge them right. Say that you had the blank page before your story in the first document. That’s fine, but then your second document needs to start on an even page or the margins won’t be correctly placed. To do this, leave the first page in the second document blank and when converting it to a pdf, only convert page 2-251 to the pdf. That way, the first page in that second document should flow seamlessly with the first one.
  10. Finally, you’ll need to review the proof copy of your book. You have to make sure that everything looks good, from the cover to the interior formatting. Maybe get a few friends to look through it for you so you know that there aren’t any silly mistakes you’re missing.
  11. For kindle, the formatting is a lot simpler. Put your story into a new document. Don’t add page numbers or anything like that. Upload it to Amazon. Preview it. Does it look alright? If not, fix it. (Sorry, I don’t have much more to add. I uploaded a short story to Amazon as a test and it looked just like it was in the document.) Don’t try to format paragraphs specially (other than first line indents) or set the text a certain size. Kindle changes all that. Just use Times New Roman size 12.

I hope this was clear enough to be helpful. Part four will be marketing.

Here are some crappy webcam pictures of my proof copy:

Snapshot_20140815 Snapshot_20140815_1 Snapshot_20140815_2 Snapshot_20140815_3

How To Self-Publish Your Novel Professionally – Step One: Editing

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I posted something similar to this before, but I want to go more in depth now, so we’re going to start with the first part of the story. The content. This is the simplest part, but it’s the easiest to get wrong. Technically step one is to write the novel, but we’ll pretend editing is the first step. (If you haven’t written a novel I don’t know why you’d be here in the first place.)

What you really need for this part is an editor. Freelance editors are easy to find if you have internet access, and if you’ve been blogging about writing or reading for long enough you’ve probably come across some editors in your time here. Pick someone you trust who has good reviews/recommendations that’s within your price range. If you’re not sure about them, ask if they can do a smaller chuck of your work to see if you can work together alright.

Another option is to obviously get an editor that works with an agency, but that will be more expensive and those editors are bound to be more selective. Some won’t take submissions unless you have an agent. However, once you decide to hire an editor, your life is relatively easy. You just need to work with the suggestions they make and correct highlighted mistakes. Bam, you’re done.

Note: Do NOT try to haggle down the price unless it’s $10,000 or something ridiculous. These people are trying to make a living. You wouldn’t like it if someone said, “Oh, you’re self-published, that means your book isn’t worth more than X amount” so why would you do that to an editor?

However, I know that a lot of people who are just starting out don’t have money for an editor, and you know what? That’s fine. We can’t let money stop us from being in the publishing game, so here’s how I prepared my novel.

First off, I finished writing. Then I let it stew for a while before going back and making changes on my computer. For the second draft, I printed it out and looked through for mistakes. I also rearranged scenes, cut out parts that didn’t fit well with the story, and worked on my characterizations. I typed it all up and then read through it another time, again fixing any mistakes I found. By then, it was looking pretty polished. I printed out a proof copy and gave it to my mother to look for mistakes (she’s not really the best or most observant of beta readers, but hey, I didn’t have anyone else). Finally, I printed out another proof copy for myself and am going through fixing all errors that I find, including extra spaces after hyphens, quotes that face the wrong way, saying her instead of his…. all the fun little things that can easily slip by. It will be my last run through the novel. There were other drafts with minor changes in between, but that’s the gist of it.

If you noticed, I wasn’t nitpicking things for my second draft. Or my third. The first thing you look for should NOT be grammar and spelling, though you can fix that too if you pick up on it. You HAVE to look at the content of your novel. Does the plot make sense? Are your characters consistent throughout the story? Are there things that your readers wouldn’t understand? Basically, is it a good story? Does it make you want to keep reading? Are there things you have in there that sounded good while writing, but don’t really fit anymore? It can be hard to cut out scenes and characters that you’ve grown fond of, but it’s for the best in the end.

A beta reader would be useful at this time, but they won’t always want to look at it if the grammar is a hot holy mess. Finding people to read your novel might be hard. You have to make them want to read it, otherwise how will you convince people to buy it once it’s published?

Now, if you don’t know a lot of grammar rules, Google is going to be your friend for these steps. Look up common mistakes or buy a grammar for dummies book. Ask a friend who is English-smart to look over your work (even if you can only convince them to read two chapters at most). If you’re no good at grammar, do NOT say “Oh, it’s okay, it’s just grammar, my story will still be okay.” It won’t. It really won’t.

I read a wonderful story that had little to no editing and it was absolutely terrible. I couldn’t give it a good review because I will not recommend a book that is hard to read. Bad grammar makes a book hard to get through. If on your first page you use the word “alot”, no one is picking up that book. I cannot stress enough how important editing is. If you can’t do it yourself, wait to publish. Either learn about grammar or find someone to help you out (assuming you don’t have money for an editor).

Here are some tips for editing your novel:

  • While reading through the first few chapters in your first draft, make a note of which mistakes you make and how often you make them. If you always forget to use a comma after a dialogue instead of a period, that’s something you know you have to focus on when reading the rest of the story. If you mess up affect/effect a lot, search your document for every instance of those words to ensure you didn’t miss them.
  • Don’t read it through all at once for a grammar run through. For plot/characterization this is fine, but you don’t want to get caught up in the story when looking for errors. Read one or two chapters, take a break, then come back. Each chapter should be fresh. Also, avoid editing while sleepy or drunk. You will not do a good job.
  • Don’t write in all caps, overuse/underuse dialogue, have character react unrealistically to things for the sake of the plot, use words that would be found in the verbal section of the SATs, or write a series for the sake of writing a series (as in, not because the plot calls for it, but because you want to stretch it out).
  • If you don’t have a deadline, set your novel aside for a while. Months, weeks, however long you want. Come back to it and read it again as if it was entirely new. Try to see it like a reader would.
  • Read more. Especially novels in your genre, but any reading will help (assuming it’s news articles and blog posts rather than tweets and craigslist ads). Reading improves your skill in the English language overall.
  • If you have gone through less than three drafts of your novel, it’s not enough. I don’t care if you think it’s the next Harry Potter/50 Shades/(Insert popular novel here), edit it again.
  • Do not treat beta readers as slaves. Beta readers are those people who agree to help you look over your novel. If you’re not paying them, they have no obligation to get back to you. They don’t have to catch every mistake or even read the whole thing. Many beta readers will mysteriously disappear, either because they weren’t that into your story or you were abusing them. Remember that beta readers are an asset. Cherish them.
  • Finally, only send your novel to people that you know you can trust. I’ve personally had my novel stolen (more info here) just from having it on FictionPress. The easiest way to prevent this is to only send it to those you know, but to also only send bits and pieces of it. I put it in a PDF file to make it a bit harder to just copy and paste everything. The best way to ensure that no one can steal your work is to register with the U.S. Copyright Office. To register online is like $35. It will be more once you factor in paper and ink to send in the physical copy of your work, but you have to do this anyways. Get a copyright for your work. Do it. Do it do it do it. Seriously. I’m sending mine in later this week. It’s important. Seriously. (Have I stressed enough that you should do this?)

Next up: Step Two: Cover Image.