Starting in 1999, National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel during the thirty days of November. It is a good way for writers determined to start or finish their books to hold themselves accountable.
Today (11/30) is the last day of NaNoWriMo. Many of you have met your 50K goal and will have a new book sitting on your table tomorrow. Congratulations are in order. Someone get the wine.
But I wouldn’t be a good friend if I didn’t tell you the truth and the truth is that mess on your table is not ready for publishing.
Hundreds and thousands of writers and aspiring writers will have complete manuscripts by tomorrow (12/1), but these are messy complete manuscripts. They still have to be revised, professionally edited, and formatted. So, please, do not publish that first draft.
In honor of NaNoWriMo, I am republishing this post from 2017.
You have finished your book. This is admirable because so many people never finish. This is an accomplishment worthy of celebration. Congratulations!
But, while this is an accomplishment worth celebrating, you are not done. Do not pass go and do not collect $200.
A rule of thumb is that you do not publish a book you just finished writing. After you have finished writing your book, your manuscript is now considered the first draft. It’s called the first draft because it is the first copy of the book ever in existence where you have made no significant changes. It is a rough draft of the story from your mind to the page.
“In any piece of writing, whether a novel manuscript or a blog post, the first draft is also known as a rough draft. From start to finish, it’s technically a complete piece. It has a beginning that moves to a middle that concludes with an ending. But it’s a messy complete piece. There are still thoughts to ground, sentences to be revised for maximum reader engagement, and spelling errors to fix. Which is why a rough draft should never, ever, ever be your final draft.”
You may also decide to join a critique group or recruit the help of beta readers before sending it in for editing. And by editing, I don’t mean your English teacher friend. You really should hire a professional editor.
Whatever you decide, the point is to make sure the manuscript is as polished as you can make it before publishing. With Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Lulu, and other POD (Print on Demand) services, I know it’s easy to upload a Word Document or PDF and say you have written a book, but I implore you not to publish the first draft/rough draft of your book. I promise you, it is not ready.
I once paid $300 for a book cover. At the time, I couldn’t afford to spend that kind of money on a cover. Not only did I not have the money, but even if I did, I couldn’t afford to invest it into a book cover when there were, as I saw it, much more severe priorities in front of me. But, I was young and excited, and I wanted to publish this book, and I wanted that cover.
But I was broke, broke.
So, what did I do?
I set up a GoFundMe.
I went around to people I knew and explained my vision and why I was raising the money. I (and get this) talked to people.
And I don’t like talking to people.
Not only did I make enough to purchase the cover I wanted, but I also made that money right back at a Book Signing in Chicago.
You might be thinking, “But, EC, if you couldn’t afford to pay for a book cover, how did you cover editing?”
I didn’t. I had a friend edit the book, which is why it is retired today.
Self-Publishing is an area where the term, Proper preparation prevents pissed poor performance holds much weight. We don’t talk about it enough, but financial planning is part of the basics of Self-Publishing.
Self-Publishing requires a mindset shift regarding how you feel about yourself and how you look at your finances. One of the first things I’ve noticed in my journey is that most first-time Self-Publishers haven’t decided if they are publishing this book for themselves or publishing the book for others to read.
Did I confuse you there? Read on.
Publishing for Yourself vs. Publishing a Book that Sells
Publishing a book for yourself means you fulfill your dream of becoming a published author and want to give copies away to family and friends. It means you are not selling the book or wanting to create a business out of it; rather, you want to satisfy a desire for something you’ve always wanted to do.
In this case, it would not be necessary to put a lot of money into this project, mainly because you are not getting the money back through sales since you are not selling the book. You may decide to get your book cover made using a cover template from KDP or Lulu or a homemade cover from Canva. You might choose to have a friend edit the book for you or use free software for formatting. This would be sufficient for a book you don’t want to sell. There are tons of economical ways to publish a book for this purpose.
But, suppose you are publishing this book because you want to leverage your business, spread your message and get it into as many hands as possible. Suppose you are a speaker and want to sell copies at your event, see your book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble or get the book stocked at bookstores, libraries, and schools.
What if you are writing this book because you want other people to read it?
In this case, you must prepare for this journey from the mind of a business person and not only an author.
When you publish a book you intend to sell, you consider other factors outside of what you want from the book because this book isn’t only for you. You think about building a platform, the market, and you consider the financial obligation necessary to bring the vision forward.
This isn’t to say write a book that doesn’t speak to your soul. It means you publish a book that speaks to your soul and the soul of others. It means you are publishing a book you see is needed in your community.
“You may have a robust knowledge of quantum computing but if everything the audience wants from you is how to use Microsoft Excel, give them just that. You write no book about quantum computing until you are able to build an audience around it.
Most self-published authors don’t do this. They do the exact opposite. They write what they like and try to figure out how to shove it down people’s throats.”
-David O, Entrepreneurs Handbook
Publishing a Book You Want to Sell Requires A Financial Investment
Spending money on your book is only an investment if you have put a strategy in place designed to ensure how you will sell this book. This, in my experience, is the difference between publishing for yourself and publishing a book for other people to enjoy as well. Many authors who venture into Self-Publishing ignore the market, so the book doesn’t sell outside of close family and friends because they have written a book no one wants to read.
When was the last time you bought a book by an author you have NOT been following for some time, on a subject you really don’t care about?
This is called Indie Author Basics because we focus on laying a strong foundation (a well-written and packaged book) to make it easier to build everything else on top of it. Too many new Indie Books are not attractive, not well-written, poorly produced, and is about topics no one cares about. As a result, the average self-published author makes less than $1,000 per year, according to a survey by Guardian in 2015, and a third of them make less than $500 per year.
What does this have to do with preparing financially?
When authors publish books they intend to sell for reasons outside of themselves, they are mentally prepared to invest the time and money to produce a high-quality product because they know they will get a return on their investment if done right.
Again, an investment isn’t just putting your money into something. Investing is putting your money into something you know will yield a return, either financially, mentally, or spiritually. It is the act of allocating resources with the expectation of generating an income or profit.
That’s why we had to talk about if you want to even publish this book to sell it first because not everyone wants to publish a book to sell it, but for those who do, financial investment is necessary.
My books do not sit on the shelves with major traditionally published books (and sell) because I’m the best writer or because I have the best books or even the best marketing strategy. I also put good money into producing my books, among other things. I wasn’t going to say this, but it needs to be said that I practice what I preach.
It also needs to be said I am on a budget just like most of us, but I prepare early for this so that what I do invest into publishing my book isn’t coming from the money I need to grocery shop or pay bills. It is coming from the money I have saved and put away specifically for this project since I first decided I will publish the book. That’s how seriously I take my writing.
I am not saying spending lots of money on your book will guarantee sales. It won’t. You first have to publish a book people want to read. (Although I got my money back from what I spent on the cover from the screenplay, the book did not continue to sell after that.) But, after that, making sure the book is well packaged plays its part too.
I am also not telling you to sell a leg to publish your book. There is nothing wrong with finding economical ways to publish (premade covers are cheaper than custom made), but if you try to find the cheapest way possible or skim on editing because you don’t want to put in the work, it will only cost you more in the end.
The Stella Trilogy put me on in more ways than one. It was the first time I got reviews on amazon for my books (I knew nothing about amazon when I started) and the Stella Trilogy book signing made me enough money to pay my bills and then some. It was the first time I saw real money from my writing and it was all from selling paperbacks (I always sell more paperbacks than ebooks. Unconventional for some, but this is how it has been for me). I also won my first award, an appreciation award given to me by my readers.
The Stella Trilogy changed lives.
The Stella Trilogy changed minds.
The Stella Trilogy is how I widened my readership.
The Stella Trilogy helped me to level up and step outside of the box.
The Stella Trilogy was groundbreaking for me and it is precisely for this reason that I am pulling her from Amazon and my website… for further editing.
The books are undergoing makeovers, a fresh edit, and new covers. For those of you who’ve read it, you know the books are short and as my #1 priority outside of the coming poetry book and Lit Mag Magazine; I hope to have them back up by the end of this year. I am not slacking on this. Stella made a big impact, and she needs to be back up soon.
The year is 1864 in Louisiana and the story slips back in time introducing Grandma Stella’s Great grandmother, Stella Mae, age nineteen years. Stella Mae begins her story with a memory of how as a child she was forced to use the facilities designated for “niggras only.” Young Stella Mae tries to reason out why her Mama can’t walk into the front door of the general store and why they can’t use the restroom everyone else uses. Even at a young age, Stella Mae could sense the inequality in her existence. – Colleen Chesebro
I have come a long way since 2015 when the first Stella book released. As a historical series it’s important to me that the book is as superior as I can afford to make it. Now that I have my foot into the schools, I hope to one day have the series taught as part of the curriculum. I have so much hope for these books and so many visions for what they can become.
The sky is not the limit. There are no limits.
I was different. It might give you a slow start but being different is gonna carry you a long way.” – Master P
I am not a fan of most rap music and never was. I like a few old school tracks from Talib Kweli and Common, but I’ve never really been into rap marketed to my age group (although I danced to it in my teens at parties lol). I was always an R&B type of person. I still remember the days my sisters and cousins used to record music videos on VHS and fall asleep watching them. We also recorded songs from the radio on cassette tapes so we can listen to it repeatedly. Despite not being a fan of the music, I admire Percy Miller aka Master P more than any other rapper. I admire him because I think people underestimate him which is precisely why I think he does so well in his business endeavors. I admire him for his commitment to being Independent and using his faith as a catalyst to propel him forward.
Indie Authors, Don’t Be Afraid to Revise Your Backlist
With great authority comes greater responsibility. As we grow and mature in our understanding of this publishing thing, more will be required of us. I know that a poorly edited book could damage my reputation not only as a writer with influence for excellence but also as a teacher and as a lecturer.
I published the first book I ever sold in 2010 and I knew nothing. The book was not edited and had never been available on Amazon. This taught me two lessons:
Begin where you are. Take the first step “even if you can’t see the whole staircase” (MLK).
After you have taken the first step and put yourself out there, make changes as you see them. If your first book was poorly edited, take it down and get it edited. You didn’t know better at first and that’s okay. But then, once you know better, do better. Do the best you can, until you know better, to quote Maya Angelou. “Then when you know better, do better.”
Do not think for a second that we are not responsible for the knowledge we have. Do not think we are not responsible for changing our behavior as we learn and grow. The quality of the books we put out shows readers what we think of ourselves and also what we think of them. Quality must always supersede quantity. I temporarily removed these books because the quality of the work I put out is more important to me than feeding my own ego of having “published x amount of books.”
It was exciting at first to publish book after book. Like anything we do for the first time it was fresh. As I have grown and as I grow, I value more where these books are going and how they are influencing the world much more than how many of them there are.
Now, for my Stella fans:
I am not changing the core of the story. I am editing the books for better readability and understanding. I am also changing the covers so all the books in the series look the same.
Stella is a work of Historical Fiction and is distinctive in its focus on one woman’s road to self-discovery, against the backdrop of the African American fight for justice, racial equality, and freedom.
The 3-Part series focuses on the history of one family in their struggle for racial identity. Discover in this Trilogy how three individuals living in separate time periods strive to overcome the same struggle, carefully knit together by one blood.
Between Slavery and Freedom (1)
We deal with enslavement and freedom both physically and psychologically.
Beyond the Colored Line (2)
We deal with passing, self-love, and racial identity. If you were a Black woman living in the Jim Crow era and light enough to pass for white, would you?
The Road to Freedom (3)
We deal with the Civil Rights Movement, Freedom Rides, and the impact our choices make on the next generation.
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve done a blog tips post. As fun as writing is, there is one thing that’s not so fun: The English language. As writers, though, writing and grammar go hand in hand. Usage of the wrong word or incorrect homophone use can change the meaning of a sentence or an entire poem! Accept/Except are different words with different meanings. Misuse them, and it changes everything. The same with Ad/Add, To/Two/Too, There/Their/They’re. If you are like me, you can’t afford to have an editor to proofread every blog post, but there are free resources we can use to help. Not only can you use these programs to clean up your blog, but you can use them to edit typos on your website or revise a finished manuscript.
1. Microsoft Word
Microsoft Word is a powerful tool the more we learn to use it. Writers can use Word to create book covers, format books for print and so much more. My tip here is to draft your post in Microsoft Word before posting to the WordPress editor. Word will alert you to basic misspellings or grammatical errors as you are writing. You will notice spelling errors by the red wiggly lines and grammatical errors by the blue wiggly lines.
But Word has a bad reputation for not giving the right corrections…
Once you’ve written your post in a Word Document, you can then copy and paste it into the Grammarly editor to double-check for what Word may have missed. Grammarly is a software program that corrects spelling, detects plagiarism, and checks against over 250 grammar rules. There is a free version, but I recommend the premium version for more advanced features. Premium will alert you to more advanced grammatical errors to include overused words or misused words. My school gave us a free premium version of Grammarly, and I love it! There is such a significant difference between the free and paid version. The free version works fine, though and I use both.
3. ProWriting Aid
After you have made corrections in Grammarly, you can copy and paste the post into ProWriting Aid as a final run-through. ProWriting Aid is such an excellent program! Like Word and Grammarly, the program is another self-editing tool. ProWriting Aid will pick up even more errors and recommend changes. It also has a plagiarism detection tool for premium users. What I love about PWA is they are not stingy with the free version. The free version checks for repeats, structure, readability, fiction, and consistency. Yes, I said fiction! If you are using it to revise a novel, it will help track pacing and dialogue use.
4. Hemingway Editor
I can’t say too much about Hemingway because I just started using it and I don’t use it often. The program is okay, and it’s not my favorite, but it’s still an excellent program to use to self-edit. Hemingway does an excellent job at detecting wordy sentences, and overused adverbs. While I prefer the other two programs, Hemingway is still a valuable tool (mainly when used with one of the other applications).
5. Save Post as Draft and Preview as Final Proofread
After you have run your post through Word, Grammarly, ProWriting Aid, Hemingway (or all four) proofreading the post is another great way to self-edit your post. Once I have drafted a post, I save it as a draft and then preview it on the computer and my phone. I find lots of typos this way. Sometimes reading over the post in this way helps to catch even more errors before clicking the publish button.
None of these programs will replace a human editor. ProWriting Aid once tried to correct the word “to” for “two,” but I did not mean the number two. I intended to write “to.” But at least you know you’ve cleaned up the basics enough to ensure your post is clear and reads the way you intended. When I publish blog posts, these are some programs I used to proofread my work and now, so can you. It will take more time, but it’s time well spent.
Want more tips? Be sure to check out the Blog Tips Page!Click Here.
This post focuses on the importance of using an editor and enlisting beta readers if you are an independent author.
Let’s start by comparing/contrasting independent and traditional publishing. In traditional publishing, an author receives an advance (if he or she is lucky). This advance is usually a fairly small amount. The author may then receive royalties for books sold after a certain number. The royalties can vary from pennies per book to dollars if you are a bestselling author. In exchange for allowing the traditional publisher to publish your work, you receive editing, formatting, publicity, and marketing services. The quality and effectiveness of these services can vary depending on how much the publishing company believes it can make from your book. In the end, very few published authors make a living wage from traditionally published books.
Independent authors know that their world is a different one. All of the services mentioned…
Guys, help me to congratulate my author friend Don Massenzio on his new business endeavor. DSM Publications offers Editing and Formatting services to Indie Authors at a reasonable rate with advice and networking with other authors. Don is a big supporter of this blog so I am delighted to return the favor! Be sure to like his new Facebook page HEREand to follow his new blog HERE and subscribe to his email list HERE. (If you sign up for DSM Newsletter, you’ll receive a free copy of Don’s book, The Ultimate Guide for Independently Published Authors.) To learn more, visit his post HERE. Remember, we are in this together! Whoo hoo.
Everyone is using Mark Monciardini’s Mock-Ups (Covervault) because they’re free. While everyone is using them, not everyone is familiar with the basics of Photoshop in ways they can get the most out of the experience. It’s like copying someone but because you don’t really know how to do it, it doesn’t have the same look. Mark is the real artist and we are all copying him pretty much. He has extended his expertise to us newbies by generously giving away his mock-up templates. Now anyone, with just a basic knowledge of Photoshop, can have professional looking 3D book cover images. But, make sure you are hiding layers you don’t need so your images don’t look the same as everyone else.
I’m going to use the wine bottle glass template as an example.
What you have here is everything as it is originally. One of the first things you’ll probably want to do is change the book cover. Most people stop here. Boom, they are done. Save. You can do that but it won’t look very original.
Here’s mine with Renaissancecover. It looks good but not very original. I did change something though. Can you guess what it is? No, not the cover. (Learn how to change the cover HERE) I changed something else.
I hid a layer and took something away. That’s right, there are no sparkles.
To switch things up, all you have to do is hide layers you don’t need or want in your image.
To hide the particles, I went over to the layers and clicked on the drop-down menu next to particles. Next to the sparkles, (I like the word sparkles better. Sounds more girly lol), I clicked on the eye to hide them. That is literally all I did.
You can do this with anything you don’t want in your image. Even the background. Don’t like the wine bottle look? Get rid of it.
If I don’t want the background at all, I can hide the background and upload my own. All I did was click on the eye next to backdrop and hid it (you can also delete layers but I prefer hiding them in case I want to use them again).
Here’s a closer look:
Basically, whatever you don’t want in the image can be hid. You can now use the space to add text, a logo or whatever you want. While all this is optional, remember that if you’re going to add text to a mock-up that has a lot going on, we won’t be able to read it clearly if you don’t hide or delete those layers first. Let’s look at one more:
This is the original but remember, you can completely make it over so it looks more you.
First, you want to get rid of all these leaves (unless of course you want them there which I don’t). To hide them, go over to layers and click on the eye to all the leaves. Light Leaf, heavy leaf and big leaf. Hide them all.
The leaves are gone but that background still makes it look leafy. Unless you want that, you can change the background too or hide it altogether.
To change the background, go over to layers and hide the entire background.
What you have is a blank slate. You can now add text, logo, whatever you want.
You can actually upload your own background but we’ll go over that at a later time.
The point is that if you’re going to pay for Photoshop you may as well get as much from it as possible. To help your images to look more authentic, be sure to hide (or delete) layers you don’t want or need.