My latest book, Love on the Line, is the story of Andy, a woman who chooses to work building a pipeline in the rugged mountains of West Virginia. Why did I write about this? I wrote it partly because I was inspired by the experiences of my own daughter who entertained me with many of her personal experiences as a pipeliner. But I also wrote it because I too chose to work in a male dominated field back in the day. Some of the struggles of women in these fields are upsetting, but many are inspiring and funny, thus perfect material for the kind of books I love to write. Just because not many women choose to do it, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done, right?
More than any time in recorded history, women are choosing to work in male dominated fields. Every day you come across a woman truck driver, firefighter, or pharmacist. And even though it’s become commonplace, many fields stick with their traditional titles such as policeman, draftsman, and even garbage man. Given this plus the infamous glass ceiling, why would a woman choose to spend their entire career fighting an uphill battle? There are a million reasons, but overwhelmingly, the answer I find is “because I want to” or “because the job appealed to me,” or “My dad and grandpa did it, why shouldn’t I?”
When was the idea planted for women to take the jobs they wanted, even if they were traditionally considered only suitable for men? Some would say with Eve, but both folklore and history are filled with women who not only worked at the jobs they pleased, they ruled societies: Joan of Ark and Cleopatra, to name a few. In Victorian times, women who wrote were forced to use a male pen name or work without recognition. But the women of my grandmother’s generation were forced to work at jobs considered appropriate only for men during world war II. They worked everywhere from factories to the fields. Sadly, after a taste of the liberation a paycheck affords a person, these women were expected to quietly step back into the kitchen once the men came home.
My mother’s generation, were blessed with not only their mother’s experiences, but all manner of modern conveniences which allowed them to clean and cook and generally care for their families in a fraction of the time it took their mothers. Many of these women took it upon themselves to “have it all” and step out into the working world, and not just as nurses and schoolteachers. Their bravery gave the women of my generation the encouragement and conviction that we too could plan a career. However, we quickly learned that we couldn’t be super mom and have a demanding and time consuming career without a shift in attitude, and this shift had to come from the men. The change had to happen not just because of the aforesaid glass ceiling on the job, but because we needed help at home.
Do I think only women who work have value, and somehow women who don’t work away from home are lesser somehow? Of course not! In my lifetime I have been a stay at home mom, a sick in bed mom, a full time student mom, an employed full time mom, and a retired mom. All of those words we put on women are pointless when you realize that we are in this together, and we should be supportive and understanding, no matter what roll you chose.
So, take a moment this summer to grab a copy of Love on the Line. Then curl up in a corner with a cup of coffee and prepare yourself for a heartwarming story filled with feminine strength, challenge, bravery, friendship, and romance.
As I prepare to launch my new romance novels, The Girl Power Series, it’s given me the opportunity to think about what it means to be a woman in the twenty first century. Women now days have endless lifestyle and career options, thanks to the strong and ingenious ladies of centuries past, but what do all the opportunities open to us really represent? How have the changing times altered women’s perceptions and concerns?
In the last two or three decades women face different obstacles than generations before, or do they? Surprisingly, I see my daughters struggling with some of the same issues that I stressed about. How can I afford to further my education? What types of work do I enjoy? What are my careers options? What type of relationships do I want? Do I want to have children, if so when? How will I manage birth control? Will my baby’s father/my partner stand by me and be a good provider of love, support, and time? Will I be able to manage relationships and my own needs? How will I manage a work schedule and family/relationships? Will my career path interfere with my relationships? I’m not sure if my mother or her mother worried as much about career options, but this meant they must have been much more stressed about their relationships and how the men/partners in their lives supported them and their children. Girls way back in my day were taught to have a career as a plan B, just in case things went south with their husband’s career. Now our careers are plan A.
If we have more possibilities these days, how has that affected us? Once again, the answer is a bit surprising because, from what I can see, one of the outcomes of having so many options seems to be added stress. Sure, I now have the ability and opportunity to become a neurosurgeon, but how will that choice cascade down through all my other concerns about relationships and family? Will I be accepted in that field as woman? Even though women now realize, and even envision, being better educated, well traveled, and making far more money than our mothers or grandmothers may have dreamed, that doesn’t make it any easier to do so while balancing the demands of a family. Plus, as we are learning, women’s health is a big part of being successful. And due to our unique and finely tuned balance of hormonal and feminine needs, it takes time, money, and effort just to stay healthy.
With all this in mind, I started writing The Girl Power Series. As with my other books, I like to find the humor we encounter along the way as we plod through life, career, family issues, and love, but I also enjoy writing about ladies who are learning about themselves as they go. Oftentimes, we women are our own biggest enemies when it comes to falling in love. Add the fun of dropping a strong-willed leading lady into a rewarding career that is still managed by the good-ol-boy network, and watch the sparks fly!
Enter Andrea, the main character in the first Girl Power novel Love on the Line. She can’t stomach even one more day of graduate school. She’s not sure what her problem is, but she knows she needs to get out of the classroom and into the world. Her estranged grandpa Buck as offered her the opportunity to join him engineering a pipeline through the mountains of West Virginia, so uncharacteristically, she takes the bait to try her hand at working in the untamed forest, also snagging the chance to learn more about the grandfather her mother despises. Follow Andy as she finds hidden inner strength, finds family secrets, and earns the respect of her coworkers in a wilderness where few women dare to venture. Laugh at her silly mistakes and cheer for her successes, as she finds her way in what has always been considered a man’s job. And I dare you not to fall for the cocky, handsome, hardworking-hunk of man who draws her eye.
Looking forward, I plan to continue the series with more stories about women finding a way to make their mark in unexpected places. If you have ideas of better yet, personal experience that would make a great story line for a book in the series, please send me a note. I’d love to create a fabulous and romantic tale based on how you survived and thrived in an ever-changing world!
When writing a conversation, how do you avoid overusing the dreaded “said” too many times?
Contriving conversation can be tricky. Your goal should be clarity, so the reader has a well-defined vision of who is speaking. No one likes to back track when reading a conversation, so the “said” word will inevitably happen. How to keep “said” at a minimum? Read on…
When I first decided to get serious about writing and take it up a notch from hobby to marketable novel, I did what most of us do. I bought a bunch of books about how to write books! Some of them were more helpful than others, but I’ll never forget the stickler who instructed “never use the word said”. He said it was lazy writing to rely on pointing back and forth between speakers. I was baffled. How could I write an entire novel full of spirited conversation and never write “said”? Confused, but undeterred, I gave it a shot.
The first suggested method I found was to write a character’s actions as they spoke. This is, by far, the most effective way to move the story along while people are talking. After all, most of us don’t freeze when we talk, we have to get things done. Especially with friends, family and coworkers, we chat while walking, over coffee, while driving, or thanks to speakerphone, doing just about anything. It’s also fun to write about that horribly inconvenient, worst possibly timed phone call as well. I try to not let my characters talk on the phone in the bathroom, however. Good taste and all that… But I digress.
By creating a scene of action, even something as simple as lifting a fork or frowning, you can portray an entire panorama while the characters talk back and forth. The story keeps bumping along and it helps to show how each character is responding to the information they are talking about.
Another important thing to remember, is that you need not note who is speaking each and every line of conversation. If you follow the rules of grammar, each return (or new line) will indicate a new speaker. This alone gives you a little go between without stating the speaker, especially if it’s quick, one line type, back and forth banter.
There are multiple replacement words for “said” as well. Some of my favorites are muttered and mumbled, maybe because it’s great fun to have conversations go awry, with one character or the other showing frustration. A good site to find helpful replacement words is https://letterpile.com/writing/400-Alternative-words-for-said.
Although repeating “said” over and over can get annoying, be careful when using an alternate verb, no matter how fitting. Many purists say it’s best not to substitute replacements, since readers don’t usually pay attention to “said” in the first place. In fact many grammar police argue that the word “said” effectively becomes invisible to readers.
If you do choose to use an alternative, be careful not to become too conspicuous. Substituting too many talking words can actually downgrade your writing and make it sound amateurish. To be on the safe side, many authors steer clear of using alternatives words, or use them very sparingly.
So, which is it then? Never use “said”, or never use an alternative? As with most things in life, I’ve found that striking a balance is best. Use it when needed for clarification, but don’t over use it. And be careful when replacing it. Read the conversation out loud to see if it sounds natural.
The above link to Letterpile.com offers several other solutions such as adverbs or phrases that emphasize how the person spoke, not just who was speaking. Once again, be careful when using words ending in ly as they are also on the hazard list, but that’s another blog all together.
Whatever route you decide to go when writing conversation, I wish you the best of luck. Keep it clean, make it feel real, and you can’t lose.
Love a good romance novel? Me too! Let’s take a look at those of us who buy, read and maybe even write romance novels, and see what makes us tick.
According to sources such as Romance Writers of America, Nielsen Books & Consumer Tracker, romance novels are a multi-billion-dollar industry, holding over thirteen percent of the literary industry total sales. Think about that for a minute. Cook books, self help, travel books, non-fiction such as biographies, current events, and history, crafting, religion, how-to books, all of those books and yet romance stands strong as an established market in the literary world. There must be something magical about a great romance to be so competitive, but then we knew that, didn’t we!
It probably comes as no surprise that eighty-four percent of romance novels are bought and read by women ages thirty to fifty-four, but it may surprise you to learn that fifty percent are still sold in paperback form, followed closely by e-books at forty percent. Or maybe it would shock you to learn that sixty-four percent of those ladies read more than one romance novel each month. Maybe not. I know most of my readers read my books within just a few days. We can all agree that nothing is as fun as a fantastic page-turner that you just can’t put down.
What are the top romance subgenres we love to read? It appears that no matter whether you like your books in print format or e-book, suspense is a key factor. We all want a happy ending, but we want a little anticipation as to how that will happen. The most popular subgenera type appears to be contemporary romance holding around fifty percent of the market, followed by a relative tie between historical romance and erotica. Paranormal, young adult and Christian romance hold their own as well, in the twenty to thirty percent range.
According to studies, we like to read about friends turned lover, soul mates facing their fate, second chance love, secret romance, and first love; in that order. We also want to read stories with strong hero and heroine leads, reunited lovers, love triangles, and of course, sexy billionaires. Again, no big shock there for those of us in the romance world.
What other types of books do romance reads like to buy? It appears that we also have a taste for mystery, general fiction, and cooking/food books. Want to feel old? Stats broken down by age show that a majority of older readers buy mysteries, and younger readers buy young adult and erotic fiction. Once again, not too shocking, especially for those of us inching up there in age, it just makes sense.
In this age of Amazon Prime, how do most romance readers purchase their books? According to the stats I found (some were admittedly a few years old) most of us still find books in bookstores, but more and more ladies are beginning to buy books online. Many of us still us the library, and a growing number of women are downloading books in e-book form. Some of us trade books we love with friends, relatives or book clubs, while some busy ladies are reading books on their phone. When I was a young mother I belonged to a book subscription and got books in the mail each month. That was always a happy day, followed by several days of ignoring housework. Now days we have the option to subscribe to e-books or audio books as well.
What makes us choose one book over another? According to most stats, we love a romance with a good story, followed by reading anything by our favorite author. Price and reviews come into play next, followed by reading books because they are a part of a series. The trailing reasons we select a book are the back cover blurb, cover art, social media recommendations, bargains, and endorsements.
What do you think is a fair price for a book? Pre e-book, the only free books I ever read were from the library, but now free books are everywhere. Even books that are normally priced, are sometimes offered free or for less than a dollar in e-book form. According to sources such as Amazon and Neilson, most of us consider six dollars a fair price for a romance novel. I know my novels are priced under five dollars in e-book format, but due to the price of printing, my paperbacks run closer to ten dollars. These days it’s hard to be competitive in the print market unless you are a traditionally published, well-known author.
So there you have it, the world of romance novels according to statistics. Does this agree with your preferences? How do you find good books and why do you choose the ones you read? I’d love to hear from you!
What makes a romance novel enticing? That is the million-dollar question.
Is it sexual tension, the act of love, the battle of the sexes, or the sweet tingle of attraction that draws your attention? The answer, of course, is as varied as the people who buy romance novels.
So how do you write a story that will appeal to the widest audience possible without leaving some readers wanting more, yet offending others? The answer is simple. You can’t.
Writing romance is all about finding a balance of passion and tension, and for most of us that means writing what we’d like to read. My first few novels were much steamier than they are now days, and I’ve wondered why that is. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and most of the heat I feel these days is hot flashes. Or maybe it’s because I know my mother will read my books. Either way, I’ve toned down the sex to focus more on why the characters are feeling attracted, charmed, or conflicted.
Let’s talk about those three issues, attracted, charmed, and conflicted. Of course most romantic relationships contain all three, but let’s break it down.
We all understand attraction. We feel it in the bakery at the grocery store and watching a commercial on TV. What is different about romantic attraction? First there’s the whole instinctual need for sex. That topic is universal and well documented. Some romance writers simply go with that. It’s real. It’s easy to tap into and describe. Some readers thrive on reading about it over and over. But there are other, deeper, reasons people are attracted to each other.
Having a basic understanding of human psychology helps nail down why one person may be attracted to another. I enjoy visiting my elderly neighbor because she reminds me of my mother. Is that attraction? Yes, but it’s not romantic attraction. It has been documented over and over that women may be attracted to a man because he either reminds her of her father and she misses that stability and love, or on the flipside, she is looking for the father figure she never had. This type of romantic relationship is fraught with turmoil because it’s unlikely that a woman will find the unconditional love and support of a father, from a lover.
Sometimes people are attracted to another person because they feel comfortable with them. This one idea alone can be a big enough conflict for a whole novel, because what is considered “normal” by some, may actually be violent, or neglectful to others. The relationship may not feel good, but it does feel like the relationships they are used to, and trying something different feels awkward. I personally like to write about overcoming that discomfort and finding a healthy connection, but many popular and angsty books have been written about unhealthy love affairs.
So what about charmed? This is also one of my favorite topics in romance. Charmed is fun, inspiring, and different for everyone. Some folks are charmed by humor, some by thoughtfulness, others by verbal communication. The book The five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman, gave me inspiration for about a million love stories. For example, what happens when two people are attracted, but one is charmed by considerate actions like loading the dishwasher after dinner without being asked, but the other is fulfilled and delighted by lengthy deep discussions. Both are healthy desires in a relationship, but how do your characters find balance? One is busy in the kitchen to show their affection while the other feels neglected and bereft back at the table. Another example: A man spends an hour at the flower shop selecting the perfect mix of flowers to show his devotion, but when he comes home late, his lover is displeased that he was too inconsiderate to call and let her know. These healthy conflicts that are centered around the actions that delight and charm a character, to me, are perfect fodder for a great romance.
Last but not least is conflict. As discussed, both attraction and charm cause conflict, but some writers choose conflict alone as the basis for a love story. In some classic love stories the relationship is perfect, but the lovers are kept apart because of war, financial status, or family disapproval.
I chose to write about couples who are kept apart because of emotional reasons that they must find, confront, and alter. The realization and practice involved in this type of conflict is fun for me to twist and mold. I know from personal experience that realizing you have an issue, doesn’t fix it. You have to alter your thought processes and actions and work through changing in order to find a solution. The discomfort and confusion involved with altering your life is conflict enough for me.
To review, what do you find enticing about a love story? Is it the attraction of the characters to each other, the flutter of emotion and charm they find in the company of another person, or the conflict keeping them apart? Or like me, do you love all three?
Have you ever wondered how an author could contrive the colorful characters that draw you into a novel? How do these imaginary people, so full of life and personality, spring from nothing but an imagination? Sometimes characters aren’t even people, but beings from a realm you’d never imagined. How does one mind come up with such individuals? Although there are steps I take to create characters, the process can be both puzzling and surprising.
Some authors feel that their gift of creation is precarious, and if they rock the boat their ability to contrive characters will vanish. They think a jolt of any kind could shake loose their talent and leave them bereft. They carefully walk through life on eggshells, cautious not to alter their lifestyle for fear of losing their unique power. Other authors feel that their creativity springs from living a colorful and varied life; an existence filled with ever shifting perceptions and insights. I take a more middle of the road approach. My life of traveling in our RV is varied and colorful, yet each day I tend to have a similar routine. I certainly gear up to write in a comparable way each day. So what is the secret to unlocking the imagination doors of character development?
I’ve heard of authors who conceive a story in a flash, then closet themselves away for days or weeks, typing furiously until the whole thing is out. But I believe that far more of us agonize over our characters, some for months or years. We turn them this way and that in our mind, considering how they would respond to specific stimuli. What would they notice? How would they feel? Would they have a knee jerk reaction, then change their mind after a few moment of reflection, or hold stubbornly to their first impression? Would this character be a compilation of their experiences, always looking back for answers on how to move forward. Or is the character motivated by the need to feel free, resolute to never alter their course, because everything happens for a reason. Is my character motivated by guilt, or pleasure, or the need to please others? Is she closed off due to a past trauma, or motivated by a single goal. All these questions sound like a phycology class more so than a novel, but motivation is the driving force behind a character’s actions. Once you know the motivation behind a character you can begin to conceive how they respond.
Now you have a few character’s motivations established in your mind you can place them in a setting, confident that they won’t run-a-muck. Or better yet, maybe they will, to the delight and shock of the author. If you are lucky enough to contrive two characters with personalities that play off one another, you are in for a treat. With conflicting motivation running wild, anything can happen. These are the moments I love as an author. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been surprised and delighted by things my characters do or say.
Of course there are other things to consider when creating a character. What do they look like? Where do they live? How old are they? What language do they speak? And again, do these things effect their motivation?
I always ask myself “How can I create a three dimensional character that takes multiple factors into account for their day to day motivation.” I believe the fuller a character has been developed; the more readers will empathize and be drawn into the story. After all, humans are quite complicated creatures. Next I think “What would happen if this character is confront with their worst fear, or situations completely out of their control and comfort zone?” That’s right, what if I contrived scenarios to throw at the character knowing they will struggle to figure it out? Therein lies the best idea for a story.
Next time you pick up a novel, watch as the author develops the character. How do you learn what their motivation may be? Does it become clear through memories or conversation? Are you dropped into a scene where the character is thinking or acting a specific way? Are you clued in by their mannerisms or speech patterns? Sometimes you find out about a character by the way other characters respond to them. The best thing about writing and reading is that the possibilities for character development are pretty much endless…
I write romance novels. Sounds clear-cut enough, unless you’ve ever shopped for a romance novel, then you know better. Right off you notice that there are multiple sub-genres to consider, such as contemporary, western, erotica, gay, paranormal, regency, the list goes on and on. Perhaps the best place to start is a simple definition, so what does the word Romantic mean?
According to the dictionary, the word romantic is defined as everything from dreamy and impractical, to adventurous, dealing with sexual love, and down right imaginary. Sound vague enough? With a definition like that, who could possibly pin down what makes a book romantic? The answer is, of course, that romance means something different to everyone.
So why would an author want to spend years creating a novel that is likely to be considered “drab” by some and “complete trash” by others? Why open yourself to that kind of rejection and ridicule? Because romance is… irresistible. No matter your frame of mind on the subject, everyone loves a little romance.
To some people, romance is a quiet dinner in flickering candlelight, but to others it’s a modern sculpture that requires a tilt of the head and one’s imagination to sort it out. Some may crave the romance of a spectacular view including forests, or ocean, or mountains, while another may consider a cozy corner with a cup of steaming coffee and a cuddle with their cat romantic.
Perhaps the real question for any romance author is, “what do I find romantic?” Is it the touch of fingertips on bare skin? A whispering breeze? Goosebumps that follow a tender kiss on the neck? Roses delivered in a box? Riding on the back of a new lover’s scooter through the winding streets of Paris?
Once an author pins down what romance means to them, can they put it into words? Do I, as an author, want to express my most precious desires to the world, knowing my work will be reviewed, and most likely reviled by many? What am I willing to share?
For me the answer came down to relationships. Not just relationships between people, but how people relate to their environment, their jobs, and their situation. Most of my books are set at a transitional point for my leading ladies. A change is shifting their world, and as they struggle with the uncomfortable feeling of adjusting, I add a man to the mix. After all, isn’t that when the best romance finds us? When we least expect it, or even want it?
I decided early in my writing career that my heroines would never be saved by a man, but they would be strong, intelligent, capable and successful women in their own right, who are not at all sure how to fit a man into their life. So what’s romantic about that?
I’ve come to believe that romance can also be defined as that spark within us that is lit by something sweet, different, or intriguing; a puzzle, a moment that captures your full attention, a brief space of time where you feel something outside the norm. What could be more unsettling than thinking you have your act together, only to find your world tilting on it’s axis? These moments in life fascinate me, make me want to hide away with my laptop and tap furiously until a story is born. Perhaps romance, to me, is… writing.
(Posting your book for sale)
This blog post will discuss how to distribute your book. Distribution sounds ominous, and I was worried about it myself, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Distribution basically means posting the book files online so your customers can buy the book. If you want to have your books available to be ordered in brick and mortar stores like Books a Million, you may need a self-publishing firm to help you get you book into Ingram or other big distribution companies, but this blog will focus on managing distribution yourself and at little cost.
I personally use two simple account types to distribute my eBooks and printed books to Amazon for sale, 1) Kindle Direct Publishing, and 2) Create Space.
To sell eBooks on Amazon you need to create an account with Kindle Direct Publishing. It will walk you through all the steps to upload the eBook files and cover file. You can save as you go and log in multiple times to finish setup. You will do this at https://kdp.amazon.com There you will have a dashboard where you can see each of your eBooks for sale. To complete this process Amazon has a few requirements. You’ll need an EIN from the IRS. (You can do this online at https://goo.gl/u9CfaA) You will also need a bank account so that KPD (Kind Direct Publishing) can direct deposit your royalty checks, and the bank account must be in the United States. The KDP process is paperless and you can log into your KDP account anytime to see your sales. Depending on the options you select when setting up the book, you can sell eBooks on Amazon worldwide this way. Be advised that payment to you may be based on the number of books sold, the way you set up sales, and a minimum dollar amount reached.
For printed books you can create an account with Create Space. Create Space is owned by Amazon and manages the printing and shipping of your paperback book. Thanks to print technology called print on demand, authors have the ability to sell printed paperback books affordably. Create Space posts your paperback book seamlessly with your eBook on Amazon. When the reader purchases the printed book online, the files are downloaded to the printer and one copy will be printed and shipped to the customer. Since the printing process has been simplified from old fashion movable type to digital files, it’s much quicker and cheaper than it was back when they had to print hundreds of books at one time to be cost effective for setup time. You will pay a portion out of each sale for this service. It cuts down on your royalties, but it saves you from the need to pay in advance to print and ship a bunch of books you may never sell. Be advised that this process can take up to three weeks, so if you plan to advertise your book for a holiday or to friends for a birthday etc, allow time for the printing process. You can also order copies for yourself, to sell or give away.
I found the process of uploading files to Create Space simple. It walked me completely through uploading the print layout and cover files needed. They also have 24 hour phone support, which was helpful. Once the process was complete they sent me a sample of my printed book. What a thrill it was to finally hold my first book in my hand! Note that you will need a bank account for this process as well, because the royalties of sales from your printed books will come through Create Space.
Create Space also offers services such as editing, formatting, cover design and more. You can find more info at www.createspace.com
If you don’t want to deal with distribution, most self-publishing firms will charge you several hundred dollars to distribute your book, then take a portion of your royalties, and be advised that they can take a big portion. When I went through my first publisher in Canada they charged so much that the price of my book was inflated to the point that it was completely out of whack with the competition, and I got only a few cents per book sale. Book Fuel is the only company I’ve found so far who will charge to distribute your book but then manage your royalties for a low flat monthly fee, not a portion of each sale. If you choose to have a firm distribute your book, you will most likely log into their system to check sales and you’ll get a check from them, not Amazon or Create Space.
You can also upload your book to online sellers such as Barnes and Noble (Nook for eBooks) and Books a Million online. Each bookstore company will have different requirements. My first two books were available for two and a half years at every online book seller possible, yet 99% of my sales were through Amazon. I’ve chosen to keep it simple and sell only on Amazon, in order to focus on writing rather than managing multiple online accounts.
More and more options are becoming available to help authors get their work published. Do your research to find the option that is best for you. Distribution is only the beginning of the long hard road to market your book, but that’s another story. Don’t let the complexity of the process get you down. Write and edit your book, get your files created, and get your work published!
Items required to post
your book for sale online
Your novel is edited, rewritten and ready for readers! Next comes the little-known part of the process where multiple computer files must be created to post your book for sale online.
Chances are, you’ve created your novel on a computer. Some writers still prefer to use an old fashion typewriter, but be advised, if you want to self-publish your novel, you will need the manuscript to be in digital format (such as Microsoft Word).
To sell a printed book online you will need to create a Print Layout (Sometimes referred to as a book block). The Microsoft word document of your manuscript will be reformatted to create the print layout, so editing must be complete. The print layout file is the file that will be sent to the printer to print all the interior pages of your book. You will be able to open the file on your computer to see exactly how your book will look.
When creating a print layout you must make choices about the inside of your book. You’ll be selecting trim size, which is the size in inches of your book’s length and width. You’ll choose text fonts and sizes for the main body of the book, as well as font sizes and types for chapter headings. Paper type is a factor to consider as well because this will affect the width of the book spine. You’ll select page header and footers, which could include your name, the book title, and the page number. The print layout will include the copywrite page that contains the author’s name/names, the publisher info and address, the date and edition number. You’ll also create a page for dedications.
If you hire a self-publishing firm to help you create the print layout file (like I do) there is a process of creation and approval you’ll go through to be sure you’re happy with the finished product. They’ll create and send you the file and you’ll check and approve it or mark up changes. Once the print layout is complete, you’ll know the page count of your finished printed book!
At this point the cover needs to be designed. You’ll need two cover files, one for the printed book and one for eBooks. The cover for your printed book will include the back cover, the spine, and the front cover in one PDF file. The back cover will be on the left side, the spine in the middle, and the front cover on the right. When printed, this will become the paperback cover that will wrap around the printed pages to complete your book. The spine width of your book is dictated by the page count in the print layout, (And paper type) so you must complete the print layout before designing the full cover. If you plan to sell only eBooks you need only a front cover. You may have noticed that when buying eBooks you don’t see a back cover unless the book is also available in print.
When you post your book for sale you will have the option to create a cover for free, or to upload an already designed cover file (such as a PDF file you have already created or one professionally designed). Some authors are much better at creating a cover than others. Many factors come into play with cover design, including the genre of your novel. I personally want my books to look as professional as possible, so I pay Book Fuel to create my covers, and they are absolutely lovely, if I do say so myself.
No matter if you use a free cover creator, or if you hire a firm to design your cover, you have to provide all the text you want included. Firm may help you with fonts, etc., but you must write your own synopsis as well as the other components you want on the cover such as your website link, etc. (We’ll discuss creating a synopsis in another blog. The synopsis a very important marketing tool and one of the most difficult things to write.)
If you decide to create your own cover, you’ll have the option to use your own photo or select one within the creator, just be sure you own the rights to any photo you use. Just because you buy a photo online (from Shutterstock etc.) doesn’t mean someone else can’t buy the same photo and use it on their book cover as well. Read up on rights to photos.
Your cousin may have drawn a lovely picture for you, but will that picture on the cover look professional? Maybe, maybe not. You can find people on Google, Twitter, and even Instagram, who will create covers for you for as low as $99. If you’re good with graphics and text you can create a decent cover using the free cover creators. On the other hand, some of the covers I’ve seen were obviously created by a novice. The idea is to make your book look as high quality as possible. After all, the reader is looking for a good book, not one that may be thrown together. Most readers don’t know which books are self published, but they will be able to spot a book that looks cheap, poorly done, or even down right strange.
When I published my second book and it went live online, I was horrified to see that the title of the book was not visible against the background graphics. It looked fine full size on the computer screen, but when thumbnail size, (like on an Amazon page) it looked as if it had no title at all. I’d paid hundreds of dollars and waited months to have this cover designed by a publisher in Canada and I was very upset. Be critical when designing or approving your cover. Open an online bookstore, go to your genre, shrink your cover small, and compare it to the other books. Be honest about how it compares. Have people you trust look at it too. You’ve worked far too hard to have your book overlooked because of something as trivial as a color selection, artwork, or font style of the title. You’ll also want to watch text font and size, especially on the spine where it will be smaller than on the front. Will the font you choose make the printed spine too hard to read?
Next in the process is to create the eBook files. This is the actual file that readers will download when they buy your eBook online. Amazon has a specific file format and other eBooks such as Barnes and Noble’s Nook, have a different format. I tried to create these files myself, but they were admittedly way above my techno level, so I paid Book Fuel to create them for me. Multiple types of software are required and the files created are complex. Depending on your computer, you won’t be able to open these files, you’ll need a specific reader or translator to check them. Creating these files yourself can be done if you’re very savvy, but there are many places out there to help you create them. When I posted my books online myself for the first time, I found it very reassuring to know that the files were created professionally and my readers would not see glaring errors in the format of the book.
A few more notes about the cover. If you want your website to be on the cover, you will of course need to purchase a domain (website address) and then create your site. (More about this in another blog) Most traditionally published books include quotes on the cover by reviewers, so you’ll need at least a few reviews. The back cover is also a good place to put your author bio as well, so you’ll need to write one.
There are several other vital items you will need to publish your book. One of these is an ISBN. An ISBN is a number that uniquely identifies your book, and facilitates the sale of your book to bookstores (both physical and digital) as well as libraries that want to buy your book. With an ISBN, your book will be listed in Bowker Books in Print®, which is used by all major search engines and most bookstores and libraries. You will need to purchase an ISBN or have your publisher purchase one for you. You can do this online at http://goo.gl/nDZFHF You’ll also need a bar code for your printed cover. You can purchase barcodes online. There are many options, here is one http://buyabarcode.com Self-publishing companies, such as book fuel, will furnish you with a bar code when they design your cover. This bar code will be used to scan and manage your book in all types of bookstores.
That sounds like a lot, but in short you’ll need to create the print layout, the eBook files, the cover, and all the information you want on the cover. You’ll also need an ISBN and a bar code, as well as other optional items such as a website address.
It can all seem very overwhelming, but don’t give up. Take it one bite at a time and you’ll be able to complete the process. Good luck and keep writing!
Next blog post we’ll discuss the actual processes involved to post your book files and make it available for sale!
Preparing your manuscript
to be self-published
Now that you know what self-publishing is all about, lets look at your manuscript.
First and foremost you need a completed novel manuscript, referred to as a draft. The hard cold truth is, you must have a finished draft that is complete with a beginning, a middle, and an end. If you get stuck while you’re writing you can hire all kinds of help, but we’re talking about publishing.
Be sure to do some homework on the formatting of your word doc. Line spacing, font size, font type, and margins are all very important. You don’t want one glance at your work to prove you’re an armature.
When you type the last line of your story draft and punch that final period, you are far from done. Editing is vital to refining a draft into a novel.
The first editor of your work is you! Reread everything multiple times. Reading out loud will help you find errors. When I sit down to write, I reread what I wrote the previous day. Not only does it help me get back into the swing of the story, but also I find missing words and typos. If you’re like me, your typing skills may not be top notch, so as the story comes out I get excited and fat finger keys.
I once read some fabulous advice that really helped me polish my writing. It said that once you finish you novel and you’re sure it’s perfect, put it away for a few weeks, maybe a month, then come back and read it again. This can be a real challenge, especially if you’re excited to get things moving, but it’s worth it. It’s amazing how a little time gives you fresh insight. This alone has been one of the best tools I’ve ever used to find and correct problems within my story. When you’re too familiar with your work you become blind to problems, kind of like sitting next to something stinky for a long time and you can’t smell it after a while. (Not that your work is stinky) Let your writing marinate, then come back for another look. Again, it’s about presenting the best product you possibly can.
Next comes the plot and character development edit. This edit helps you polish the story line and the characters. Much of this type of editing can come from family, friends, and reading groups (groups who meet locally or online). They will read your story and say things like, “I’m confused at this part” or “What are you trying to say here?” See if readers can pick out the turning points. Ask them questions about characters like “Can you feel how upset (sad, happy etc) she was?” or “Do you understand why he did that?” If you have a complicated scene, don’t fill them in in an advance, see if they can understand and picture the scene as they read it. This is the point you’ll get feedback such as “What ever happened to…?” or “I’m lost.” Feedback is fundamental to plugging the holes in your writing.
My early novels needed to be heavily edited. Even now, as I get a better grasp of my writing style, I still need a fresh eye to help me. As I write, I see the setting and characters in my mind’s eye, so I understand the motivation and thought process behind my character’s actions. I may or may not have done a very good job at portraying all that in a particular scene, and a developmental edit will catch this. Developmental edits will also help you monitor the “speed” of a scene, to see if you are rushing through a part pr skipping ahead, causing your readers whiplash.
A copy or line edit comes next to catch grammar and typos. Traditional publishing houses spend a vast amount of time editing, even the writing of the most gifted and popular authors. Every professional writer knows beyond a doubt, that professional editing is required. Unfortunately, since self-published authors are most likely paying for the process (and editing is pricey), they want to skip this step. It’s a well known fact that first time authors usually believe their work is super fabulous. In reality this opinion is based on inexperience. Your writing most likely isn’t a mess, not hopeless, just needs more work. Please believe me when I tell you, if you haven’t had a professional editor look at your work, you’re in for a shock. I’m not talking about friends or neighbors or family, the people who love you. I’m talking about someone who’s JOB is to find every little problem, who knows the industry and isn’t afraid of hurting your feelings. No matter how great your work is, it WILL need to be edited. Do not consider skipping this step.
For me a copy edit looks horrible when it comes back because the punctuation is all marked up. Don’t expect any high fives back from the editor, they are looking for even the tiniest of error such as the number of spaces after a period, and comma placement. This edit is the polish on your book. Again, edits can be a bit painful to the ego, but the more time and money you spend on edits, the better your novel will be.
Every time I send a piece of work to be edited, I have delusions it coming back with only notes of praise attached. The truth is that an editor’s job is to find problems, and they will. They are looking with a critical eye, in order to catch and correct errors or omissions, before your readers find them. And in the long run, I’d much rather get one or two scathing returns from a professional editor than disgusted feedback from a multitude of readers. Imagine how bad it would feel when you finally get your book finished and published and when comments come in from readers, they aren’t about the characters or the fabulous plot twist, but about typos and bad grammar.
A good editor will also immediately find your less favorite parts of the story; the parts that you rushed through or weren’t very “into” as you eagerly moved on to a more exciting part the plot.
A processional editor will mark up your word document and you will have the opportunity to accept or reject their changes with the click of a button. If you are being published the traditional rout, you will just see the work after the edit is completed, it’s not your choice what gets changed. (Some publishing houses are more considerate than others.) A self-publishing firm will want to be sure you approve the edits before they proceed because you own the writing.
Note that all computer files for both printed books and eBooks will be created based on your word document, so every space and return is important. You will only be able to make minimal changes to a few words once you have approved the word doc and moved forward. This is because the format of the print layout and eBook files are rigid, and if you try to change out a short word for a long word, for example, it may throw off the margin or footer. As far as punctuation, be aware that little things, like hitting return twice or more, or extra spacing, can throw off formatting software. These tiny errors in your writing can really gum up the works moving forward.
After you receive an edit you get to do a rewrite. This is where you stare at your brainchild and attempt to find a way to incorporate another person’s opinions and attitudes into your story. I once had an editor tell me that I was one of the best rewriters she’d ever worked with. I’ve never forgotten that rare compliment. She said I was very good at weaving in corrections and solutions without them feeling like a fix. As you work through an edit, always keep in mind that rewriting is a part of writing.
To add insult to injury, editing will be, by far, the most expensive part of self-publishing. Having said that, it is also the most fundamental for success. No one wants to spend money to be told their writing has problems, but be assured that your writing, like mine, needs to be edited.
Perhaps your cousin is an editor for a newspaper, or your mother is an English Lit professor. If so, you may be able to get quality copy editing for nothing. Just remember that friends and family likely have jobs and lives of their own and it may take them a long time to edit an entire novel.
Another option to save money on initial editing is to work with a writers group. Readers within the group will edit each other’s work. Just be advised that these are usually not professionals, and they can be opinionated or worse. There is a big difference between good feedback you get from a beta reader (someone who reads your unfinished work and offers you advice or support) and a copy editor. You want someone who won’t squash your “Voice” or style, but will help you understand what is expected within your genre.
Edits are very important because in all reality, our readers deserve the best books we can create.
So finally your manuscript is edited and perfect and ready to present to the world! How do you go about that? Read part three!