The One Thing Self-Publishers Overlook When Publishing Print Books

I am getting book one in The Stella Trilogy ready for its March 24th release. Preparing this book led me to notice the one thing about my books I had neglected and the one thing Self-Publishers overlook when publishing print books.

Not all Self-Published books look mediocre because of poor cover design and editing. Lots of Self-Published books have excellent covers and are packaged well on the outside.

But there is one thing that separates most Self-Published paperback books from Traditionally Published paperback books in terms of quality.

I am talking about typesetting.

“Typesetting is the process of setting text onto a page. In this stage, which occurs towards the end of book production, the typesetter arranges the book’s interior to create the best reading experience.” 

– Reedsy 

The key is to have a Self-Published book indistinguishable in quality from high quality Traditionally Published and Independently Published books. The way the author or book designer arranges the text on the page has a lot to do with this.

Here are some suggestions for improving typesetting (if you are not paying someone to do it):

  • Don’t space your words out so much. You don’t need to double-space to that extent. You will know you have too much space if the text looks light. But also, don’t squish them together too tightly either. You will know this if the text looks too dark. (Try maybe 1.5 spacing).

 

  • There’s no need to double-space after periods. This practice came from the typewriter when characters were the same width, but with modern computers, there’s no need to do this.

 

  • The first paragraph of a chapter should not be indented. Subsequent chapters in a fiction book can be indented. Nonfiction books use a block style instead of an indent, where there is no indentation on the next line.

 

  • Don’t forget to add page numbers.

 

  • In fiction writing, the dialogue starts on a new line every time a new person is speaking, should be enclosed with quotation marks, and with each new line indented.

Wrong:

“Oh my gosh, Nora, really?” Lisa rolled her eyes. “I’m just saying,” debated Nora, “that word gets you lynched where I come from.”

Correct:

“Oh my gosh, Nora, really?” Lisa rolled her eyes.

“I’m just saying,” debated Nora, “that word gets you lynched where I come from.”

 

  • If you are not sure about font, serif font is a good choice.

 

  • Set your paragraph alignment to justified. Justified means the left and right edges are straight. This looks neater and is easier to read.

 

  • Make sure your trim size is appropriate for the size book you want to publish. The size of a typical novel is 6×9, but you may want your book to be shorter in size. Change the trim size in word by going to Layout > Size.

 

  • Adjust your chapter headings (you do have chapter headings, right??), so they are not too far down the page.

 

  • A new chapter starts on a new page.

 

  • When uploading your document to KDP, consider uploading a PDF copy of the MS, not a Word Doc.

 

  • Make sure your paperback book is not just edited but also formatted. You can use formatting software or pay someone to arrange the text for you. I prefer to pay a professional to do all this for me after the book has been edited. 
Preorder Stella: Between Slavery and Freedom today.

It may seem small, but if you are Self-Publishing a paperback book, good typesetting makes for easy reading. This is one of those behind the scenes things that readers only notice if it’s done wrong. No one would have paid attention to the man, eating, and drinking air in Tyler Perry’s A Fall from Grace if there was food on his plate and water in his glass.

The same applies here. Readers care about the story. They are not going to pay attention to the typesetting unless it is so out of sorts it becomes distracting. 

If I open your paperback book and there’s enough space for me to write a whole diary entry between paragraphs, or it looks like a DIY your little brother put together, I am going to notice it.

It is not always a bad book cover or poor editing that brings down the quality of some Indie books. It is the typesetting or the way they print the text on the page that gives the book away.

LitMag 2020

Good Evening Poets!

I hope you are all doing well amidst this Coronavirus mess and that you are safe. I had an emergency to take care of this morning that did not allow me to access my computer and my phone died, but for those of you wondering, yes! LitMag 2020 still releases today!

LitMag is the Literary Magazine for poets I established to feature, promote, and highlight the winners and contributors of “Yecheilyah’s Annual Poetry Contests.” It grew out of a desire to give the poets another platform to use to showcase their work outside of this blog and social media. The mag is still in its early stages of development but who knows what it can become.

LitMag 2020 is Volume 2, it is out in digital and print and available on the site (link below). This year we are featuring winners and contributors from our 2019 contest. Inside: Poems from Chanelle Barnes (she’s on the cover!) BuddahDesmond, Dondi Springer, Kiyana Blount, Jahkazia Richardson, Zerahyah Ysrayl, Karen Abah SoFloetic Jones, Ivy Mae Tolentino, and Michelle Stevens. Special thanks to Lisa W. Tetting and Tehilayah Ysrayl for their assistance with last year’s contest.

>>Get It Here<<

>>Get It Here<<

Why I Write Black Historical Fiction

Historical Fiction (specifically Black Historical Fiction) is my favorite genre to read and to write. I have to specify “Black” because I am not a fan of all Historical Fiction. My interest lies specifically in fiction stories that explore black history in some way.

Historical Fiction is the past recreated around the stories of people who seem real to us, including actual historical figures at times.

As we witness how fictional characters we care about interact with our ancestors and navigate a world now gone from us, it allows us to experience the past vicariously. Through the stories of the characters we can “visit” history and get a feel for what it was like to live in that time. But why is this important? I think a quote from the Toni Morrison Documentary “The Pieces of Me” (Hulu) sums it up:

“You imagine the past because the past has been ruptured. The record of the past of your people has been degraded. It’s been burned up, it’s been taken away.”

Tbt. The Historic Lorraine Motel, Memphis, TN

Not only has the black past been degraded but also entirely and tragically whitewashed. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a good example of someone whose humanness has been reduced to the one “Negro” who bridged the gap between blacks and whites. A Civil Rights hero who succeeded in making blacks docile enough to accept that merging with white people was the best version of themselves possible. That, if we integrated, we were better people than if we had our own communities and businesses, and could determine the direction of our own destinies. Not that segregation was wrong, but that integration was better. That blacks were better when mixed with something else; that we could not be the midwives of our own selves. 

Although King was known as a civil rights leader and Malcolm X as a “black radical” both men were advocates of oppressed people. King told black people their blackness was beautiful, believed in economic freedom and establishing black businesses, preached on black power, and even owned a gun. King was just as “radical” as he was patient…but this isn’t the version of King we are given.

White America adopted Dr. King and used him as the black friend that is used by some to say, “Hey, I can’t possibly be racist because I have a black friend.” King is that friend. Sadly, we have someone whose name is widely known, but who, as a person, is not very well understood.

Forget about the Civil Rights icon, who was Dr. King as a man? Who was Malcolm X as a man? What could we imagine their persona’s to be like? Those of us born after they lived do not know but we can imagine.

What I do as a writer is to take the part of history not taught in schools, and use it as a tool to invent people who could have lived in a world that did exist. To then take these people and let them show us the truth about that time and place. To give these people real feelings and a voice that is authentic to what they could have said or what they could have done. I love to go back to a time before I was born and, through research and creativity, imagine what it would have been like to live in that era.


Stella Returns!

Book One Re-releases on March 24, 2020

About Book One:

Cynthia McNair and her boyfriend, Alex, express some racist feelings toward blacks. The visit Cynthia’s grandmother Sidney McNair, who recounts the story of her ancestor, an enslaved woman named Stella Mae. Cynthia has no idea of her African ancestry or how deep this rabbit hole goes. Will she accept the truth about herself?


There are only TWO days left of the $200 Amazon Giveaway! You can enter as many times as you like! Go, go, go! Link below:

$200 Reader Giveaway

The Effort Will Release It’s Reward (If You Do Not Give Up)

Copyright 2018 | Emily Rose Photography

I published my first book in 2008 and the first book I ever sold in 2010. But it wasn’t until 2015 that I learned to define what my author’s voice was, to establish an author platform, to reach people, and to truly understand what it meant to be an Independent Author. In the beginning, my books were poorly edited and formatted. I didn’t know anything about Amazon, reviews, buying my own ISBNs, imprints, nothing. (I wasn’t even on Social Media, so I couldn’t take advantage of this free platform).

I was green, inexperienced, and made no money. It took me five years (2010-2015) of publishing poor quality books to learn, and even now, I am still learning how to publish books the right way. Whatever fruits I reap now are the result of years of work, study, research, and doing it wrong repeatedly until I understood that practice only makes perfect if I am doing it right. It took me years to realize that publishing book after book (the wrong way) was doing nothing for my growth until I was ready to put in real work. It took me years to learn that this was a marathon and not a sprint. My point? It took me years to get here.

Dear Future Author, why do you want to publish a book? 

This question seems simple, but the answer is a lot deeper. The answer will require you to first define who you are, who you are writing for, and why what you are writing is important to those people. Are you writing to make a difference in the world? To educate, empower, lift, heal, and inform? Or do you just like the idea of being a published author?

One means chasing the “prestige” that comes with publishing books.

The other means putting in real work even when sales are low when you want to give up, and when no one is clapping, liking, or supporting you.

One means wanting to appear glamorous for the gram…

…and the other means doing the work in private, not just in public.

IF you are willing to do this and IF your intentions are genuine, then the effort will release its reward as long as you do not give up. 

Quality over Quantity: Why I Pulled My Trilogy from Amazon

These books may still show up but they will be completely removed (out of print) soon. They will be relaunched with new edits and covers.

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.

About.

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.

Coming (Back) Soon

Don’t Wait Two Weeks Before Release to Prepare Your Audience for Your Book

You don’t have to wait until January 1st to get started on your 2020 goals. If you want to release/write a book in 2020, you should be planning...now. Actually, you are already behind. Even if you are Self-Publishing, it helps to start early. Notable mainstream authors releasing books in 2020 already have their preorder up. “Planning out your book marketing in advance and adequately preparing for your book’s release is crucial to a successful book launch.” (Sansevieri, 2019) Don’t wait two weeks before release to prepare your audience for your book. Here are some tips:

  • Put some money aside for your book. Your biggest expense will be editing, then cover design. You will also need the book formatted for e-readers. Don’t wait until the last minute to put something to the side. Invest in your book. Invest in yourself. Save some coins. (Prioritize your expenses! Don’t spend money on the tools you don’t need right now. Business cards and fancy thank you cards can wait. Save your money.)
  • If you want to start a blog, do it 3-6months before your book releases. Post content relatable to the book and who you are as a person (don’t make your blog all about your book. Talk about other stuff you like.)
  • Set up your Author Social Media pages and get to work. Talk about the upcoming book, educate, inform, uplift, go live. Use SM for something other than memes and gossip. Social Media is a FREE platform to use to spread the word about your book/business. Don’t sleep on it.
  • Make sure your website is ready to go. Here’s something the “gurus” won’t tell you: Selling through Amazon is nice, but selling through your own website is better because you get the entire dollar instead of just a percentage. Print on Demand Companies like Amazon’s KDP, Lulu, and Ingram Spark makes it easy to order copies of your book in bulk that you can sell individually through your website. (You can also sell your books in bulk! I’m trying to tell you something…level it up)
  • Create a landing page with a great giveaway offer or freebie to collect emails for your author email list. A sample of the first few chapters of the new book is a good start. The email list isn’t for everyone, but it’s good to have in case Social Media (blogs included) is no more. You will still have a connection with your audience. Find what works best for you. For instance, the giveaway/freebie thing is a good idea and many people use it, but this strategy didn’t work for me. I get more email sign-ups by having the pop up on this blog than giving away a free chapter of a book. People say pop-ups don’t work but they do for me so don’t let people tell you what will or won’t work for you. I wrote a post on how to set up an email list with Mailchimp here.  Also check out 7 Common Sense Reasons You Should Build an Email List.
  • If your book is up for pre-order on Amazon, make sure you set up your Amazon Author Central Page. Add an author photo, bio, and link your blog. You can also list your events. (Listing events is no longer an option). This is a good time to set up your Author Goodreads account too. I wrote a tutorial on how to set up the Amazon Author Central page here.
  • If you want to host author events in bookstores, start pitching them about 3-4months out. If they’re local, walk-in and introduce yourself. (I book most of my events by walking in and talking to people in person.) Always travel with a copy of your book and some business cards.

The point of starting early:

You want to build your readership ahead of time so when you release the book you have people who want to buy it.


CLICK HERE for more Indie Author Basics and happy writing! I’m rooting for you.

Your Testimony is a Bridge

Copyright©2019. Photo by Ciao Bella Photography.

The Houston Signing was excellent. It was different from my other signings. We had a small crowd but it felt more intimate and personal. What’s better than talking about self-love to a group of Black women? It reminded me of teaching and you know what they say “when you teach you learn twice.” One of the most important lessons I learned is the importance of telling our stories. I wish I had gone deeper into my background during the introduction. I think it would have added a bit more depth.

I was raised on the south side of Chicago in the Robert Taylor Projects, the largest housing project in the world and one of the poorest urban communities in the United States (second only to Cabrini Green). I’ve seen things most people only read about or watch in hood movies. I know what it’s like to grow up around drug addicts and gangs. I got my own war wounds. I’ve been homeless. I’ve been hungry. I know what it’s like to be depressed and sad. Keep Yourself Full is not a regurgitation of the latest Social Media Self-love Guru. Keep Yourself Full exist because I know what it’s like to feel empty.

This kind of vulnerability helps us to be more relatable with others and capable of helping people who are where we were to see living proof that overcoming is not just a word: it actually is possible. If we consider ourselves healed and whole, how did we get that way? What lessons have we learned? We didn’t always know what we know today and preaching and browbeating rarely works…

…but stories do.

Tell your story. Let people know how you got here. Stories help us to connect more with others. It humanizes us and makes people open to hearing our perspective.

Your testimony is a bridge.


More photos of the signing will be uploaded to my website soon. yecheilyahysrayl.com/photos