Dear Self-Publisher, How Your Book Looks Inside Matters Too: Don’t Forget Typesetting

By now, we know how important it is to have a dope book cover for our Self-Published book.

But it’s not always the book cover that gives a book away that it’s Self-Published. Sometimes, how the book looks inside makes it look homemade.

Typesetting: the spacing between words and letters, the font type & size, the page’s trim size, margin, and overall layout.

Grab a book that has been traditionally published (or professionally Self-Published!) and look over the pages. Take note of how it appears on the inside. Look at how tidy the words are! How are the left and right edges aligned, the typefaces are the same, and the paragraph spacing is perfect? This is the result of expert typesetting.

Many Self-Publishers skip this stage. We don’t realize it because we submit the Word or PDF file we used to compose the book to our preferred print-on-demand.

But what’s wrong with that?

There is nothing wrong with that, except our manuscripts do not print exactly as we type them in Word, Google Docs, or Scrivener. The document requires proper typesetting and formatting for print and digital devices like Kindles and Tablets.

The cover of your book may suffer from a poorly formatted book. Take a look at book two in The Stella Trilogy, first edition.

I actually like the initial cover image. The problem is with the rest of the book.

Do you notice how the spine is twisted? Because the book was too short to have a spine, this occurred. Giving it one, nonetheless caused it to wrap around and face the front.

I didn’t realize the book needed more pages for a full spine because I’m not a graphic artist or skilled book cover designer.

While this cover image doesn’t pop as well as the first (IMO), the book is professionally bound. The alternate ending made the book long enough for a spine in the revised edition. The book features a more professional cover, professional formatting, and professional editing.

Recommendation. Before having your entire cover designed, wait until your book has been edited and properly typeset. Your graphic artist will require the precise number of pages and trim size to create a cover, back, and spine that perfectly matches the book.

Moral. Before hitting publish, make sure to hire a skilled typesetter to correct the placement of your text on the page.

If you want to try it yourself, here are some sources:

  • Reedsy Book Editor
  • Adobe In-Design
  • Microsoft Publisher
  • Vellum
    *Fiverr. Note: Professional typesetters can be found on websites like Fiverr. Make sure they are typesetting rather than just typography, though. Typefaces and other decorative elements make up typography. That’s not typesetting. Additionally, if they are only using Vellum, you can do it on your own by simply purchasing it.

Check out more Indie Author Basics Here

How to Eat an Elephant: Breaking My Writing Goals into Small Parts

Photo by RF._.studi

There is only one way to eat an elephant, according to Desmond Tutu, and that is one mouthful at a time. He meant that everything in life that appears difficult, overpowering, or even impossible may be completed gradually by taking on just a little at a time.

I was stressed when I first got the edits for my black history book back. “This is going to take forever,” I thought.

But that’s because I was looking at the entire book with no system or organization to get it done. It was just one big pile of words that needed to be sorted out. So, what did I do?

I left it alone a couple days.

The time helped me to see how I would attack it. I decided to work on two chapters at a time. And by work on, I mean do everything that needed to be done: revise, add citations, summarize. Using a dope Black history planner I ordered from Black Prints on Instagram, I blocked off the entire month of January and February with the chapters I would do for each day, leaving one day (every Sat) as a rest day where I would not work on the book at all.

It’s so cute!

This changed my outlook immensely!

I find myself looking forward to work instead of dreading it (even the boring stuff like formatting citations). If a chapter is short enough, I could do three in one day. With this system, I am already on chapters six and seven.

Doing less feels like I am getting more done!

Moral: Few people who want to write a book get around to doing it because they are thinking about writing a whole book. But how about just writing a chapter? And if that’s too much, a paragraph?

If you can commit to writing a certain amount a day instead of all at once, you will look up to a finished book in no time.

However, it’s equally important to honor your commitments, or this strategy does not work. That’s the thing about writing, no one can do it for you. If you say you will write a chapter a day, try really hard to write a chapter a day.

I am really not all that organized. I just honor the commitments I make to myself.

I would also recommend staying within schedule. While I do three chapters if the two I have for the day are short, I never go on to four.

Which means I have time to draft this blog post!

I hope this helps someone.

Have a great week!

Genuine Connections Will Take You Places Money Won’t

Since we live in a capitalist society, money is the first thing we think about when wanting to go places or do something, and if we don’t have the money, we become hopeless.

And I get it. You need money for everything. Not even a charity can run without funding. What kind of society makes it so you can’t even help people without money?

However, there are two other things we have that can make things easier:

  • Our mind
  • Our connections

Many people ask me about my self-publishing journey, and I can tell you it has been challenging. Nothing about self-publishing is easy, even now. However, what has made it easier is my connections with other people.

December, 30, 2017

When we first moved to Georgia, my husband and I visited the Nubian bookstore in Morrow. Every two weeks or so, we would buy books until we developed a relationship with the owner Marcus. As two nerds, we had no other agenda but to buy as many books as our wallets could afford and our arms could carry.

Two months later, I asked Marcus how I could get my own books into his store. (It had not occurred to me before then.)

To my surprise, we worked out a consignment deal on the spot and put my books on the shelf.

Then, he told me about the Medu Bookstore in Atlanta and referred me to Nia. I submitted I am Soul, which had to go through a review process. 

This is why…editing.

June 13, 2018

A couple weeks later, I got the call that I had passed the review board, and just like that, I was in two bookstores.

While hosting a book signing, I met a guy who told me there was a Barnes and Noble that accepts self-published books. He said I should check it out. I did, and a few moves later, I was in B&N.

Of all the advice I’ve ever given, this is probably the most important:

Building genuine connections and relationships with people can take you places money won’t.

It will allow you to skip steps you would otherwise have taken.

June 16, 2021

Once I am Soul passed the review board, The Women with Blue Eyes didn’t have to go through them to get on the shelves because they trusted me to deliver high-quality work.

In this season, instead of mindlessly scrolling social media, consider ways of leveraging your connections for more growth.

Something to think about.

Check out more Indie Author Basics Here

Doing More with What You Have

Photo by RF._.studio

These days, I am focusing more on shifting my mindset from trying to figure out how to do something new to maximize what I already have. This includes how to best nurture my personal and business relationships.

Gone are the days of randomly following people on social media and only liking their posts. How can we actually work together? I hope to participate in more collaborations.

We spend so much time at the start of the year trying to figure out what new, shiny thing we can go after when we already have shiny things around us and within us. How can we repurpose content we already have into something greater? How can we build on relationships we’ve already fostered into something better?

Instead of “What can I do?” I ask myself, “What can I do with what I have?”

Going forward, I am reminding myself that my gifts have no limits.

And I hope you are too.

From teaching and mentoring to sitting down on panels with the crème de la crème to share your perspective, Self-Publishing a book is about far more than book royalties. It is also the easiest way to become an authority in your field. It puts you in rooms you would otherwise not be qualified to be in.

Malcolm X said his alma mater was books and a good library. He had a book with him every time he was on a plane. “I could spend the rest of my life reading,” he said, “Just satisfying my curiosity.”

And, while Maya Angelou spoke six languages, studied modern dance in San Francisco, and spent a year in New York studying African dance with Pearl Primus, she never went to college.

Malcolm and Maya both lectured at universities, although they never attended one. The people came to them despite them not having the degrees and certifications because they were exceptional at being themselves.

People will pay you to be yourself. To talk your talk. To let your light shine.

While writing books, I remember that I am not limited to only writing books. I can use my gifts to make an even more significant impact.

And so can you.

Short Locs and New Beginnings

I was twenty-two years old when I loc’d my hair. It is the only other time it has been this short (or a little shorter than this).

As a spiritual-minded person, I do not think of hair as just hair. I see it also as energy. (I believe the keratin protein in hair contains crystalline structures that act as energy amplifiers and antennas.) Thus, as the years have gone by, a lot of energy has been built into my locs. Some of it good, some of it not so good.

While there is the power of all I’ve accomplished, there is also the energy of losing loved ones. The energy of miscarriages. The energy of depression and sadness. As the years passed, my hair became more burdensome. They are thick and healthy but heavy. I saw this as much more than the weight of hair, but the weight of all I was still carrying after thirteen years of growth.

While I don’t think I will ever cut my locs off completely (I love my hair!), the symbolism of my cut is a cutting off of toxic emotions stored in my hair over the years and a separation from the past. It is a physical, mental, and spiritual cleansing through the release of the old and embracing the new. As I let go of those old branches, I await the beauty of the new ones to come in.

Just as pruning trees helps to remove portions that have a disease, fungi, and other types of decay, my trim represents the removal of those parts of my hair that can spread to the other “branches” and prevent them from healthier growth. It helps expose my scalp to more sunlight, air circulation makes it easier to wash and sleep, and it does not hurt my neck and back.

I feel this all on both a physical and spiritual level.

I love the overall freedom this new look gives me. I literally felt a weight lift when these heavy locs hit the floor.

This year, I intend to live more freely. I do not want to rush to do anything, conform to anyone’s ideas, or allow myself to be limited in any way. I am here for it all. This haircut is a symbol of this freedom.

I am excited about this new beginning.

PS. Exciting new update on the Black History book coming!!

Dear Indie Author, Remember to Guide Your Readers to Your Own Platforms

None of us can deny the power of social media to impact businesses, big and small. As we’ve seen repeatedly, what we post to our accounts can have positive and negative real-life effects, destructive and groundbreaking. With it, we can reach people worldwide without leaving the house. It is no longer just about posting family photos. People are making real money and establishing real connections.

However, an over reliance on social media to hold up the core of our business can prove disastrous since we do not own them. Lately, I have heard many complaints of Instagram pages being hacked, Facebook jail, and TikTok suspensions.

And these are not complaints from people with small accounts. People with tens of thousands of followers have had to start from zero.

People who operate systematically, moving their tribe (those genuinely interested in their content because everyone isn’t), over to their own platforms, do not lose when their accounts are hacked or when IG decides to glitch.

They do not lose because they understand a basic principle:

Social Media is the vehicle, not the destination.

Photo by cottonbro studio

Social Media is a powerful tool for socializing and networking with your target audience. Still, you want to always be moving them along your funnel.

This looks like adding them to your blog, email/text list, website, or membership site.

To do this, use a call-to-action at the end of your posts to tell people what you want them to do.

The call-to-action or CTA is when you give your people direction. What do you want us to do after seeing your post?

  • Do you want us to visit your website by clicking the link in your bio?
  • Do you want us to leave a comment? Are you asking for feedback?
  • Do you want us to buy something? Are you having a Black Friday sale?

The goal is to avoid getting too comfortable with the followers you get from these social media platforms. Only some people following you are interested in what you have to offer. You can ensure they know where to find you outside Instagram and Facebook. This allows you to nourish relationships and build stronger bonds with those who care.

In a matter of seconds, your thousands of followers can be gone if someone hacks you or your account is deleted for whatever reason.

Protect yourself by establishing an online home.


Indie Author Basics simplifies and streamlines the Self-Publishing Process so authors can Self-Publish high-quality books without pulling out their hair.

Dear Indie Author, No One Wants to Subscribe to Your Newsletter (Do this Instead)

I used to ask people to subscribe to my email list, and almost no one ever did. It was also cringy to ask.

And then I realized I was working harder than I needed to.

How people look when you say subscribe to your author newsletter.

The truth is, asking people to subscribe to your email list is boring, and no one wants to do it. We have enough emails.

And if you are a new author, no one’s ever heard of, saying we will get a free copy of your book doesn’t work either.

As I alluded to in the last post, authors must start to think like readers if they want to attract them.

Instead of asking people to subscribe to your list directly, do this instead.

Photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA

Offer Something They Want

The value in giving something away is that if it’s a truly valuable piece of content, it will naturally lead to your paid stuff. At first, this wasn’t working for me. It wasn’t until I gave away my best book (the one people actually wanted to read) that I started to see a difference.

For your give, my advice would be not to throw something together. Give us something good.

Your give is also known as a lead magnet and doesn’t have to be a book. It can be a resource, guide, free tutorial, or access to exclusive content. It can be a complimentary ticket to your online class or a virtual pass to the next event.

Deliver Your Give By Requiring Email Sign-Up

Choose a platform to use to collect email addresses. I use Mailchimp, but there are tons of others. Require people to enter their email to receive the freebie.

Set Up Automation

As soon as they sign up, they should be able to instantly download the freebie. Setting up an automatic welcome email to officially introduce yourself is an excellent start to a warm welcome.

You’re done, and you didn’t have to beg, borrow, or pull teeth to get here.

Other ways to add subscribers:

  • Collaborate with other Authors
  • Host a contest

These are the two most powerful strategies I’ve seen. I get the most sign-ups through my poetry contests or when I collaborate with other authors.

  • Have a sign-up sheet at every live event.

This is probably the only time it’s okay to ask people to subscribe to your email list directly. I always have it sitting at my table. Still, the amazing thing is people will walk by and put their email addresses down without me asking! So in a way, you still don’t have to ask. All you have to do is make it available.

  • Add a pop-up on your blog and website. 

Please ensure this goes away after about 5 seconds and doesn’t take up most of the space. Pop-ups that aren’t easy to close out are annoying and distracting. This makes us feel like we are being forced to sign-up. You don’t want people leaving your site because your pop-up won’t leave them alone.

  • Use Your Blog

If email newsletters aren’t your thing, you can always use a blog. When people subscribe to your blog, they get an email notification whenever you post something new. You can use this with your third-party email list or by itself. Either way, it’s another way to stay connected with your tribe outside social media.

I can go on, but the moral of the story is there are tons of ways to collect email without spamming. 

Oh, please be sure you provide a way out! It is illegal not to provide a way for people to unsubscribe if they no longer feel you. It is much easier to do this if your emails go through a third party. If people can’t unsubscribe, they will report you as spam, which can ultimately hurt you. I talk more about that here.


Indie Author Basics simplifies and streamlines the Self-Publishing Process so authors can Self-Publish high-quality books without pulling out their hair.