Guest Post: “A Self-Publishing Blueprint” by Bud Smith

Hi gang,

For our next installment of the Guest Blog Post, I turn to my good friend and all-around fantastic author Bud Smith. Bud’s a veteran of the self-publishing wars, and in his guest post, “A Self-Publishing Blueprint,” he imparts the knowledge and wisdom he’s gained while publishing his own collections of short fiction and poetry. With a healthy dash of humor, to boot. His guest post will surely answer any questions you might have about self-publishing, and ease your mind as well.

A little about Mr. Smith:

Bud Smith is the author of the novel, Tollbooth (Piscataway House), the short story collection, Or Something Like That (Unknown Press), and the poetry collection Everything Neon (Marginala). He edits at JMWW and Uno Kudo, and lives in New York City. 
www.budsmithwrites.com 

And now, without further ado…

 

 

 

A Self Publishing Blueprint
                       

by Bud Smith

 

 

Oh Jesus, this again. The debate, ‘Should I self publish my book, or should I sell it to One of the Big Five?’
Who knows what you should do. Should you be getting an agent? Should you be looking for a movie deal? Should you be finishing your book? Should you start writing your book? Should you get off the floor, you’ve been laying there curled up in a ball for three weeks, just eating crumbs that roll over.

Regardless of all that, I think it comes down to, Have I put in the time to learn how to do what I want to do great.
Okay! I saw this coming … YOU’RE GREAT! Knew you’d say that.
So then, you probably wanna talk about self publishing. There’s no time to waste, you say, I gotta self publish this book ASAP. Alright, keep reading. But also, if you are against self publishing, keep reading. I’ll talk in this article about how to use POD to print your drafts out in paperback form, for you to edit and finalize, before submitting to small presses, agents, even God. She likes a good book too.
 

Self Pub 101
1. There’s still a stigma against self-published books. I call it, the grime of self-publishing. But, they can be great books. And they can be just as great as books released from major publishing houses.

 

* Whenever I say just as good, I mean, they can actually be far better, because they can say whatever the hell whacked out thing they want.
* When I read a book, I’m reading it for the art of the writing. It doesn’t bother me if you put your book out yourself or if the biggest publishing house in the world put your book out.

* I think of small press books in the same light that I think of indie films. Some of my favorite movies are made by solitary directors who wrote, produced, and acted in their own films. There’s a handful of books on my self that are from authors who’ve pulled off that same level of commitment to their books. It can be done. It will be done again.

2. Not all self-published books are created equal.
* The problem most readers have with dedicating their time to reading a self published book, is the fact that the creators of the book, sometimes seem to give zero fucks about spell checking their work, editing their work for typos, working on the appearance of the text, considering font, sizing of page, spacing of lines and characters … in short, the readers are mad because they are looking at a sloppy/ugly book that is not pleasing on the eye or brain, regardless of the content or quality of the writing, and the purpose that writing achieves on an entertainment and educational level.

*Successful self-published books, are that way because of the level of care put into ‘building the thing from the ground up.’

*And it’s all bout the person who’s putting together the project, hence the self in the self publishing. If the self wants to take their time and do something beautiful, the self can do that. If the self wants to put it out raw, the self can do that too.
Whichever. I’m a fan of both ways.

I’m probably not the best person to ask if self publishing is cool. I’m biased, and by biased, I mean, “I don’t give a fuck what is considered cool.”

I just care about making stuff. Sometimes making stuff involves me working with a press on a book that they will publish for me, like I got to did with my novel Tollbooth (Piscataway House), and did with a collection of my poetry called Everything Neon (Marginalia Press); or other times, it’s all ‘me’, and by that I mean Unknown Press, and I’m doing all the layout of the book myself, from cover to cover  and the inside guts between. That self publishing stuff happened with my short story collection Or Something Like That, the literary anthologies, First Time, and the forthcoming anthology Too Much.
I like books, and I like making them, any way that I can.
I get all starry-eyed with the process. But, had a big trial and error period with making my own books, ie. self publishing my own books. I scoured the internet looking for people who would ‘tell me how to do it.’ And believe me, they would—there’s no shortage of long-winded advice that leads nowhere.
Just look at this fucking article. Long-winded, check. Semi-helpful, check.
But my purpose here … is to just say what I do. To give you the details. To get you set-up, so that your book looks the best it can, whatever that means for you.

Self-publishing for release.
Or using the self publishing model to generate your own ‘draft books cheaply.’
 

 

The Process Step By Step

1. Your book should be done, finished, finito.

 

*  By finito, I mean: you’re ready to stop writing for a little while, get it printed up as a ‘proof’, order yourself a copy, and read it. Run spell check on your draft at least.

 

2.  Layout

 

*  I make 6 X 9 books generally. 5 X 8 books will follow the same general layout and formatting tips though.

*  margins are 1 inch. All margins, Top, Bottom, Left, and Right.

*  Header and Footers, I Set at .5 inches, but generally put nothing in them but page numbers. I like a simplistic, clean book.

*  all indents are set to 0 in.

*  tabs= .25 inches. The tabs are set this way, so they create a pleasing paragraph start. A moderate bump in, at  the start. Most bad looking self published books have 2 dead giveaway layout messups. The first, is over exaggerated paragraph starts, ie. .5 inches-1 inch on a 6 X 9 book … The other mess-up I commonly see, if that the self pub author decides to put a an extra space (line break) after the conclusion of each paragraph. This always looks unnatural.

3. Formatting
*  text is 11 pt. Georgia, Garamond, or Minion.

*  Line spacing is 1.1, or 1.2 (white space is your friend in book design.)

*  Alignment = Justified. Clean edges. Text like a box. Open up a pro-book by a big pub house … oh shit look at that, they are all aligned as ‘Justified’

*  Character spacing I usually leave alone, but you can add a little white space between the individual characters if you prefer. 1%-2% max is recommended for this, in the body of text for a standard novel, short story collection, book of essays.

Sections

*  First of all, when you open a book, the inside of the cover, does not count as a page. Page one, is on your right hand side when you immediately open a book. This might seem counter-intuitive to some. But, all books start on page 1. Well laid-out books will not be numbered (in header or footer) until after the title page, publisher page, any other pertinent page, before the actual text of ‘page 1’ of your novel starts

In example: there should be no ‘page numbers’ in the headers or footers of these pages, in this: section one.

*  page 1: title page

*  page 2: publisher’s page/copyright page

*  page 3: table of contents (A/)

*  alt. page 3: “for”

*  alt. alt. page 3 “quote”

*  page 4: blank, (add section break)

 

Section Two: begin automatic page numbering in header or footer.
*  page 5: text of book begins here.

*  page 5-whatever (body of book)

*  last page of body text (add section break)

Section Three: no page numbers here.

*  at end of book, on an even page, add acknowledgements

*  blank page

*  finish with bio page

Tip
I always like to ‘start’ a new chapter, on a new clean page. I add page breaks to the end of paragraphs that will be the finale to a chapter. This keeps things clean, and organized. You could just hit return a bunch of times, but if you add a page break, your formatting will improve dramatically, and as you edit, add/remove text in later drafts, the start and stops of paragraphs will be cemented.

Conversion

You have a pleasing looking document now. I go into the Menu>File>Print, and in the print window, I convert the .doc into a PDF. A PDF is beloved by printers. What you see on the page is what you see in the book.

I use Createspace for my printer. There’s benefits to using them, especially in the price, quality, ease of upload … and my favorite thing, the ability to keep ordering cheap proof copies of your title as you see fit, before approving it (if ever) for release online and in the Amazon store.

 

Other benefits of PDF

*Pdfs can be uploaded to issue.com And you will get a preview of how the interior of your book will look in printed form (on screen). You will be able to flip through your book by cursor, to take a look at your layout, choice of font, sizing, spacing and page numbering …

*Upload the PDF to your printer, ie. Createspace.

*Be sure to select 6X9 book if your file is a 6X9 PDF, or however you set your pages up.

 

Book Cover

Of course book covers are important. If you don’t have much experience with making your own covers, it’s a good idea to get help. A bad book cover steers people away. Generally, if I see a book with a bad cover and know it’s self published, I make the assumption that it is not edited, even proofread, laid out nicely, or in general, worth my time. Remember this is all happening digitally online, mostly. People are going by a thumbnail.

So … that said, if you are going to make your own cover, and have a working knowledge of photoshop, at least, you can, and should give it a shot on your own. (Q: Do you suck now? How will you get better? A: BY DOING IT.)

 

*Sometimes simpler is better.

*Graphic, timeless covers do better.
*Make sure the title is clear.
*Make sure your name is clear.
*Avoid: busy
*Avoid: cheesy
*Avoid: blurry, crooked and smudged

 

Some of my favorite covers are from Charles Bukowski. All his press did was put the title of the book and the author’s name, with minimal fluff. See also: Ask the Dusk and Catcher in The Rye (red cover yellow letters)

Don’t like how it comes out? Fucking hire someone to fix it, maing.

 

Order it.

 

When it’s all loaded up on your printer’s site, and you finally get that email that says they are ready for you to order your proof copies, or they are ready for you to CLICK APPROVE PROOF COPIES, slap yourself in the face if you thought for a second to just approve the proof copies.

 

*  Order a physical copy

*  Read it.

*  Revise it.

*  Mark it up.

*  No matter what you do on your own, you will not find all the typos.

*  Again: No matter what you do on your own, you will not find all the typos.

*  Fix the original doc.

*  Make a new PDF.

*  repeat until you are happy with the result.

*  I recommend getting people to read your book, extensively proofreading it. I recommend paying them what you can. I recommend that till the cows come home. A new author will not listen. That’s fine. You will one day break. You will one day learn. Or, you can just take my fucking advice now. HAVE SOMEONE ELSE, who is not your friend or lover, proofread your book. Better yet, get two people.

*  Fix it again.

*  Make a PDF.

*  Re-upload it.

*  Look at the physical proofs.

*  Like it?

 

CLICK APPROVE.

 

Congratulations, you just made a book. I like art and I love books, so I’m happy. Another book for me to read!

Those are some of the tips I can offer. There’s a lot more, and things always change, but  that’s what I’ve got right now. I hope it helps you make a book.

Chances are, it’ll take you a few tries before you are happy with the results. Don’t give up. And keep getting better at writing, designing, editing and making in general, by practicing it.

Even the pros have to learn this stuff. Don’t let anybody tell you that they just skip it. While they make not be physically making and releasing their own titles, their publishing houses are not carrying them as far as legend would have you believe.

Writing and book making is hard work. But hugely satisfying work.
Enjoy it, party animals.

Guest Post – “5 Things I Learned Writing ‘Death By Ice Cream” by Rebecca Douglass

For the next installment in the Out Where the Buses Don’t Run Guest Blog Post Series, we now turn our attention to author and librarian Rebecca Douglass. Rebecca and I met on Goodreads a while back, and we’ve maintained our friend both there and through each others’ blogs.

She’s recently self-published another book, called “Death By Ice Cream.”

DeathByIceCream_FrontOnly

The synopsis of “Death By Ice Cream”:

Pismawallops Island is a quiet place where nothing much happens, even at the High School.  That’s why JJ MacGregor likes it.  When a high-handed new member of the PTA threatens to disrupt the even tenor of life in the middle of Puget Sound, JJ wants someone to take a firm stand against her.  But when Letitia Lemoine shows up very dead in the freezer where there should have been 30 boxes of ice cream bars, JJ worries that someone might have taken her command too seriously.  Not the sort to sit back while someone else solves her problems, JJ just can’t help asking a few questions.  But someone wants her to stop—and an acerbic sense of humor, insatiable curiosity, and carefully hidden dedication to duty lead her into more trouble than she knows how to handle.

Like any good writer, Rebecca looks back at the experience in writing “Death By Ice Cream” and recognizes there are some lessons to be learned. In her guest blog post, “5 Things I Learned Writing ‘Death By Ice Cream’,” Rebecca shares those lessons learned. I think we as writers can take a lot from what she’s learned. Not to mention she’s learned all this while retaining both a great sense of humor and some humility to boot.

Her bio:

Rebecca Douglass was raised on an Island in Puget Sound only a little bigger than Pismawallops.  She now lives and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area, and can be found on-line at www.ninjalibrarian.com and on Facebook as The Ninja Librarian.  Her books include the tall tales for all ages, The Ninja Librarian and Return to Skunk Corners.   Rebecca likes to spend her time outdoors, when not writing or working to make the schools the best they can be.  She spends her free time bicycling and running, and her vacations hiking, camping and backpacking.

rd author photo

Blog: http://ninjalibrarian.com

Book purchase links of all kinds: http://www.ninjalibrarian.com/p/blog-page_11.html

At any rate, here’s Rebecca’s guest post. Thanks to Rebecca for writing this and sharing!

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5 things I learned writing Death By Ice Cream

  1.  It’s best not to take ten years to draft a novel.
    This is particularly true if you don’t have an outline. I should have learned this with my first, mercifully unpublished, mystery. Often months went by between times I worked on it, and I would forget what had happened, not to mention where I was going. Death By Ice Cream was also originally drafted (though somewhat faster) before I committed to writing daily. Let’s just say it took a lot of work to create the tight, coherent story I wanted. So what I’ve learned, in all seriousness, is to work every day. A writer writes.
  2. If you love something about the story, it’s worth saving.
    I learned this from my editor, Inge Lamboo. I took her a draft resurrected from the files where it had languished since I’d given up shopping it to agents, and told her I wondered if it was worth trying to salvage. I thought about just taking the characters I loved and start over. She told me that if I loved the characters, the book would be worth working on. She was completely right. It wasn’t easy, but I not only loved the main characters but also the setting, so the process was rewarding, and the end product a book to be proud of.
  3. It may not be easier to write your mystery using an outline, but it’ll be a poodle-load easier to edit.
    Actually, I haven’t really tested this, yet (only the writing part, since I’ve drafted the sequel, Death By Trombone, with an outline, mostly). But it can’t make it any worse. And honestly, it was easier to write the first draft knowing who did it and why. But an outline doesn’t have to be a bunch of Roman numerals in a cascade. My “outline” was more a series of questions: who’s dead? Who found him? Who might have done it? Who did do it? Why? And will JJ’s love life ever improve? By the time I had answered most of these questions, I had a whole lot more—and also both a substantial back-story and a good idea where the novel would go and how it would get there.
  4. Everyone’s lying.
    The best advice I ever picked up (wherever I did pick it up, and I don’t remember now) was that everyone’s lying. This is probably true in any kind of novel—everyone has their secrets, and that’s what makes them interesting and complex. It’s doubly true in a mystery, where it’s all those lies about unrelated things that make it so hard for the sleuth to find the important lie. But it was surprisingly hard for me to do. I tend to write in a straight line, and make my characters honest upstanding citizens. Well, most are, but that never stopped them from lying.
  5. Most importantly, I learned I can do it.
    I can write a mystery that completely works. I was never sure I could, up until a reader with an ARC reported back that she read the whole thing in one sitting. That only happens if you’ve done something right. I’m looking forward to doing it again. And again. Because, despite the agony of editing and the gloom of sales and marketing, writing is the best job I can think of, and I’m one lucky lady to be able to do it.

My Life Story, in Six Songs

The lovely folks over at Running On Sober have issued a challenge to their readers: tell your life story in six songs, and then for fun, wrap up your life in a bonus seventh song. With each song, guest bloggers are encouraged to fill in the details as to what that song means in that particular point or aspect of their life.

The series runs every Monday, through September, and today’s edition features myself and another guest blogger by the name of Twindaddy, who blogs at Stuphblog. We were each given the opportunity to tell our life stories in six songs, plus a bonus, and share these stories with the Running on Sober readership. I thought I’d repost Twindaddy and mine here, but for you lazy few who just want to know what songs I came up with, without any context – sorry, but you’ll have to click on the link to read my story – here’s my list of seven songs:

  1.  “Star Wars – Main Titles/Rebel Blockade Runner” by John Williams
  2. Rock & Roll” by The Velvet Underground
  3. Cure for Pain” by Morphine
  4. (I’ve Got You) Under My Skin” by Frank Sinatra
  5. New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down” by LCD Soundsystem
  6. This Tornado Loves You” by Neko Case
  7. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by Nina Simone

So without further ado, here’s Life in 6 Songs, Vol. 7 – Twindaddy and Gus.

This series, and it’s an excellent series which I encourage you to check out past volumes of other shared stories, got me wondering: if you could choose one song, or several songs, what would that one song, or those several songs be?

Post the results in the comments below, along with a couple of sentences explaining why. You don’t have to go into too much depth – add as much or as little as you like – but some context would be appreciated. No prizes for originality, and I promise, no mocking if your song is “Wind Beneath My Wings” or “I Just Called to Say I Love You” or anything by Wilson Phillips.

Actually, I WILL mock you for “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” That song is the fucking worst.

Don’t be shy. Share your song or songs below, and let’s discuss!

Guest Post: “Writing Cramps” by Christina Hart

Hey everyone,

Busy, busy, busy, as the good people of Bokonon would say. Yeah, it’s been a hellacious busy time here at Out Where the Buses Don’t Run. Work (real work), writing, reading, life, things have been hectic, but in a good way. Unfortunately, my blog’s taken a hit. Hence the reason why there have been no new posts lately. Some new posts will be coming soon, I promise.

In the meantime, here’s a terrific guest post from Christina Hart. You may know her from her insightful and funny blog, Daily Rants with the Bitch Next Door. Christina’s been kind enough to share with us a guest post, entitled “Writing Cramps.” In her words, “it’s 463 words, and summarizes the joys and difficulties of the writing process. It explains how characters can lead you through the process, how you can teach them to stop bitching about the process, and vice versa.”

“Writing Cramps” is a great guest post, and I think all of us who are writers will take much from it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

About the author:

Christina Hart is a writer who has worked for several online women’s magazines and blogs, while running her own blog, Daily Rants With the Bitch Next Door. She has self-published three books, including a poetry collection, a novella and a short novel. She is currently trying to get a fantasy novel published and survive the ups and downs of life while writing her way through it all. 

So, without further ado…

_______________________________________________________________

Writing Cramps

By: Christina Hart

Daily Rants with the Bitch Next Door

 

While writing can be magical at times, it can also be almost crippling. The joy of finishing a novel, the despair of never finishing one. We all suffer from writing cramps at one point or another. So what’s the trick to enjoying it full time? Are there any tricks? Is there one trick that works for everyone?

No.

The trick is simply to love it; whether it loves you back full time or not. You need to be in a committed, long term relationship with your writing. You need to understand it’s like any other love: there are going to be good times and bad times. There are going to be days where you don’t want to get out of bed and write anything at all. There are going to be days where you feel like your work in progress is on a train to nowhere fast. You’re going to feel like that train dropped you off in the middle of nowhere when just yesterday you were in a place full of warmth and promise.

So what’s the trick?

The trick is getting back on that god damn train whether it stops for you or not. The trick is being dedicated enough to be willing to run for it, jump for it, or risk your life for it. Okay, maybe it’s not that intense. But it certainly feels like it sometimes.

The trick is to keep on running, despite the cramps. Run through them. Write through them. The rest will come; if you’re willing to put the work in. Finishing a novel is like running a god damn marathon alone. You only have your characters to get you through this. And if they’re not helping you, poke them until they do. Get them pissed off. Put them in a situation where they have to do something.

Our characters are like our children. Or maybe we’re theirs. They either teach us what’s right or we’re going to have to put them in a corner until they learn it on their own. For me, I tend to let my characters lead the way once I’ve nurtured them to the point that I trust their decisions. Maybe it happens right away. Maybe I feel like they walked into my life and I already knew them. Maybe I have to invent them, only knowing them from their childhood. Maybe I don’t understand why they are the way they are until later in the story. Either way, it’s a process. And it can be a fun one or a troubling one. Either way, it’s an adventure.

Write the book you want to read. Introduce the characters you wish you knew, or maybe wish you were.

And don’t let that train stop even if everyone on board wants to get off.

So You Want To Be a Guest Blogger, Huh?

I’ll be frank here: one of my 2014 goals has been to blog with more frequency, at least 2 to 3 times per week, but I’ve been involved in a trio of projects at work that are breathtaking in scope and breaknecking in pace. With the exception of last night’s post about “releasing the bats” I haven’t been able to give my blog a lot of attention lately.

Here’s where you can help me. There are going to be times when I really can’t keep my blog as updated as I’d like. Now, you, as a guest blogger, can pinch hit for me when I can’t post regularly. Think of this like when Garry Shandling used to guest host the Tonight Show whenever Johnny Carson would go on vacation. Did I just compare myself to Johnny Carson? Yup.

This isn’t anything new I’ve done. Some of you may recall I solicited requests for guest blog posts some time last year, and several bloggers contributed some terrific guest posts. Check out a sample of them in my Guest Blog Posts page. If you’ve done a guest blog post before, I’d love to have you do another one. If you’d like to take part in this for the first time, don’t be shy, make yourself heard and I may just post your guest post. May? Oh, who am I kidding? Of course I will!

Besides, it’s a win-win. Your blog gets some fresh new hits, and I, of course, can fill in the blog post gaps with some quality guest post from some of my favorite bloggers, as well as some new voices demanding to be heard. So BE HEARD! Step right up!

Seriously, I’d really appreciate this. So many of my readers are some of my favorite bloggers, so it would be my pleasure to host your blog posts. Of course, I would be delighted to do the same. So what do you say? Want to have a go?

Now before you submit any queries for guest blog posts, I would like to point out the guidelines for being a guest blogger her at Out Where the Buses Don’t Run:

  1. Message me at gus_sanchez1971@hotmail.com if you’re interested in participating, along with a quick summary of the topic you’ll be blogging about.
  2. Blog Topics I’m Interested In: 1) Anything having to do with writing – your experiences as a writer, whether as a published/self-published author, the decision to become a writer; any experiences you’ve had with publishers, editors, agents, etc.; if you’re a publisher/agent/editor: any advice you can dispense to my readers. 2) Anything having to do with life – the secret of life, why marriage is awesome/why marriage sucks (???), crazy stories from your past and what you’ve learned, you being crazy. In other words, use your imagination.
  3. Blog Topics I’m NOT Interested In: There are thousands of blogs out there that will teach you how to best take advantage of search engine optimization, or how to use the Internet to make money, or what the latest fashions are. This isn’t that blog, and I’m not interested in hosting any pieces relating to topics like that.
  4. Please provide a short 2-3 sentence bio, written in the third person. Feel free to promote your website, Twitter feed, Facebook page, etc. Personal photos are also welcome, if you’re inclined.
  5. Once I give you the go-ahead to submit a guest blog post, please do not ask when your guest blog will be posted. I will let you know when your post goes live, so you can repost and share on your own site/Twitter feed/Facebook page/etc.

Sounds good?

Looking forward to hearing from you guys! Thanks again!

Guest Post: “How Not to Get Duped By Editors” by Elizabeth Harvey

Hey gang!

So about the radio silence lately…the move finally took place. After weeks and weeks of packing and stress and dealing with a realtor whom we wanted to have hung, drawn, and quartered, we sold our house, and we’re trying to settle into the two-bedroom apartment we’ll live at while our new home is being build. Key word is “trying.” That was two weeks ago, and I’m still unpacking. And I’m exhausted. There are boxes everywhere. For someone as clutter-phobic as I am, this would be like me being in an episode of “Hoarders.”

Just breathe, Gus…just breathe…DAMN THOSE BOXES, CAN’T THEY UNPACK THEMSELVES?

Don’t even ASK me how my writing’s been so far. Just don’t. Pretend I don’t even write, okay? I’m just a writer groupie right now, until the dust settles and all the boxes finally get unpacked.

Anyway, I thought this would be the right time for a guest post. This one’s a different guest post, as it comes courtesy of Elizabeth Harvey, a freelance editor whom I met through a Linkedin blog swap. You can find Beth over at her own site, E. Harvey Editing, which I highly recommend you pay a visit to.

Because Beth’s a freelance editor, I was keen on having her submit a guest post reflecting her perspectives on editing and editing services. Her guest post, “How Not to Get Duped By Editors,” I think does exactly that.

So, have a read, and be sure to visit Beth’s site and say hello.

Now, without further ado…

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How to Not Get Duped by Editors

I’ve heard this horror story a lot when I encounter writers. It was even more frequent when I was working as an Acquisitions Editor for Divertir Publishing. It usually came out when we sent out the rejection letter.

“But my manuscript was professionally edited!”

Unfortunately, whenever I hear that argument my first instinct is to tell them they got ripped off, but that isn’t the most delicate way to put it. It is, however, true. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen authors being ripped off by so-called “editors” who don’t know anything about writing or editing. They may think they do (which is almost worse than people intentionally lying), but these books end up needing so much work that they are unpublishable without literal months of editing.

So how do you avoid this trap? There are a few ways to make sure you’re working with a professional who will treat you well. The most obvious is to ask for references – if they can provide other authors that they’ve worked with that speak highly of them then that’s an obvious plus. If you’re looking at going with a company (or a self publishing group) start by putting their name into Google alongside the word “scam”. Then check out the results. If nothing comes up screaming then you’re probably in better shape than if they do. If they do I’d suggest reading what is said and see how much there is. A few angry customers do not a scam make, after all.

The second is to ask for a sample edit if they don’t already offer one. That way you can see what they will fix. After that go through and carefully look at their edits. Did they catch typos? Grammar mistakes? Granted, yes, this will change depending on what you’re asking them to do. A proofreader will not edit for content, for example, since that’s not what you’re paying for.

Also remember that you are paying them for a service. They’re (theoretically) a professional and deserve respect, but don’t be afraid to ask questions or question things they’re doing if you think something’s off. A good editor won’t be offended by that. I know I’m not. Just make sure that if you question something they’re doing do so politely. We’re people too.

If you keep your head in the game and stay aware of what the editor is doing and how much they’re doing for the price they’re charging you, you should be okay. Don’t be overly impressed by the title of “editor”. We’re skilled, and we’re professionals, but that doesn’t mean that we’re unable to make mistakes or are “better” than anyone else.

Guest Post: “What Your Artistic Friend Really Thinks,” by Holly Dutch

This next guest post is a special one for me, as it’s a guest post from a dear friend of mine. I met Holly Dutch a few years ago at a Nickelback fan site Goodreads group, and we hit it off pretty quickly. It became evident quite fast that we were pretty similar in many ways. We shared common interests in books, music, and films.

We also began giving each other nicknames for one another. Truly horrible, disgusting nicknames that I can’t reprint here.

Both of us shared an ambition: to become a published writer. Holly’s made that ambition come true. She’s recently self-published her first novel, Doll of Dawson, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am for her.

Her guest post, “What Your Artistic Friend Really Thinks,” follows below. It speaks for all of us who waited a little long to pursue our artistic ambitions, only to find discouragement from sources you least expected to. I think it’s a piece a lot of us can relate to.

Holly Dutch’s bio: “For over twenty years, Holly Dutch has been a writer for radio, print, and telecommunications. As a broadcaster, she’s written, voiced, and produced copy, radio plays, newsfeed, and newsletters.”

She can be found online at www.hollydutch.com, and on Twitter at Holly_Dutch.

Enjoy.

 

What Your Artistic Friend Really Thinks

Hi.  Remember me?  I’m that friend of yours who had a dream of doing something artistic, and told you about it hoping I’d get some encouragement.

I write, sing, make music, act, paint, photograph, do stand-up, or have some other craft that you think is great, all too happy that I had found a hobby.  Maybe when I told you that my plan was to jump in and go further with my “hobby” you felt I was making a mistake.  Were you scared that I’d foolishly quit my day job, thinking I was going have a YouTube-sensation-insta-career that usually is the kiss of death once Ellen Degeneres invites me on her show?  Did you think it seemed okay that other people—perhaps famous people—do the things I aspire to do, but didn’t think that maybe I had the chops to be as good?  What was worse—maybe you didn’t care?

You’re right.  Maybe I’m not as good.  Maybe I won’t make a million dollars.  But I want you to know about what I’ve done to get to this point and how I’ve felt.

When I first took on this project, I wasn’t looking for your acceptance or your permission.  I discovered something I loved to do and I wanted to try my hand to see if I could take it to the next level.  I began to invest in better equipment, books, and I even spent time researching with professionals.  My “hobby” was starting to take up much of my time.  I might have even missed calls, forgot to reply to text messages, or even declined offers to go out citing I was busy with my project.  I’m sorry for this, but just like you needed time to take your kids to baseball games or take those night-school cooking lessons, I too needed time to work on what I loved to do.

I became immersed in my craft.  So, naturally it was all I wanted to talk about.  Just like new parents only wanting to talk about their babies, or pet owners talking about their animals, I hoped you would understand that after all the times I was there for you when you had exciting things going on, that you would be there for me during this exciting time: my chance to make my art my new job.  If nothing else, take my art to a level where I could showcase it to the masses.

Maybe you thought it was a pipe-dream.  You offered to change the subject, or politely reminded me not to expect that success was going to be easy.  You warned me that criticism will come, and you didn’t want me to get hurt.  You thought I was taking this too seriously.  The absence of encouragement, replaced by your doubt only told me that you really didn’t believe that my dream could be coming true.  You began to think that normal nine-to-five folks don’t do interesting, creative things and expect to make a living out of it.  You continue to think that perhaps it could for others, but not me.  I’m your normal friend.  I play by the rules and don’t do crazy things like take chances.  Didn’t you think all of these worrisome things have already played out in my head as I began to doubt myself throughout this ordeal?!

No one said I was going to be rich.  I certainly didn’t.  I don’t ever recall saying I would even leave my career, and I definitely knew enough to be realistic about where my bread was buttered.  So, I began the process of marketing.  I made a Twitter account, a Facebook page, and a personal website showcasing what I can do.  Still, you had doubts.

All the blood, sweat, and tears I put in to my project—and still nothing.  You don’t “like” me on Facebook and you don’t think to retweet me.  You had no idea that the work I had put in to make my craft the best it could be.  All those nights I stayed up until three a.m. and the offerings that you would get dibs on my work when it was finished.  I.e.: the “friend fee” (which is free).

Like an obsessive fool, I’m now checking my Twitter constantly, looking for new followers.  I scan my Facebook for new likes.  I check for updates on my website hits.  I check for these things on almost a minutely-basis.  I want to be liked and want to know that what I set out to do reached the world, no matter how small the numbers are.  I worked so hard, and desperately hoped you, my friend, would be supportive and become one of my biggest cheerleaders.

Alas, I have now come full circle.  I started out something I wished to do because it was a dream.  When I worked my tail off to hone my craft, I wanted to be someone you could be proud to call a friend.

Guest Post: “Red Apples Like Baseballs” by Kathleen Donohoe

Kathleen Donohoe is up next in my guest blogger series. Kathleen runs the blog BookStory, which she describes as “…every book you read has at least two stories. There is the one the author has written, and the one about how it came to be in your hands.  This blog is about books I have read and books I am currently reading, and why.”

Her guest post, “Red Apples Like Baseballs,” isn’t about baseball, sadly. It’s a recollection of when she first realized she was a writer. But it’s more than mere recollection, it’s a conjuring of images and sights and sounds and smells that a good writer should always incorporate into their writing. For me, a native New Yorker, I could feel so much about where this story takes place, the borough of Brooklyn.

It’s an excellent story. But don’t just take my word for it.

Kathleen’s bio: Kathleen Donohoe has published short fiction in several literary journals including Washington Square, Harpur Palate, New York Stories, Web Conjunctions,SNReview and The Recorder: Journal of the American Irish Historical Society. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York and now lives there with her husband and son, Liam.

Now, without further ado…“Red Apples Like Baseballs.”

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Red Apples Like Baseballs

November Before It Gets Grim

The Muppets and St. Dymphna

In our kitchen, a statue of St. Dymphna sat on a shelf rarely dusted. She kept company with a beer mug full of pennies, a little yellow dish that held nickels and dimes for the Flatbush Avenue bus, an old can of Billy Beer and a piece of Palm, grown brown at the edges. About six inches high, she wore vivid robes of red and blue and a crown. She had long, light hair. An open book lay across one palm and in her other hand she held a staff. Her contour made me want to fling her into the air with a spin, a holy baton, just to see if I could catch her. She is an Irish saint, patroness of the mentally ill, runaways and knitters. I was standing beneath her feet when I realized that I was a writer.

I was eight years old, the middle daughter, the dark-haired one between two blondes. It was a bright, chilly afternoon, early in November. Winter coats were hibernating deep inside the house. Boots were not a thought. But my father had already put the storm door in and the sun lit the scratches on the glass so that they looked like confetti, tossed in the air and stilled. We’d gone apple picking recently in an upstate New York town with enough open space to astonish girls from Brooklyn, where backyards come in slices and running is done from curb to curb. Against the wall beneath the shelf, there were three paper bags of McIntoshes, red apples the size of baseballs.

That day, I was fetching an apple and thinking about what I wanted to be. My third grade teacher had recently asked the question. Mrs. T— was feared throughout Our Lady Help of Christians. There was a rumor that she’d been a nun and I believed it. She yelled, threw books to the floor, banged boys’ heads against the blackboard. Most of the class gave the same answers: cop, fireman, teacher, nurse. Nobody, however, said priest or nun and Mrs. T— got mad. Often she interrupted her classes for tirades that grabbed her like coughing fits and we all froze like rabbits in knee socks and neckties, hoping to escape a predator. She was angry that never, ever had one student of hers had a vocation. Didn’t any of us give a thought to the church? We needed to pay attention in case God gave us a sign. He might try more than once. God is persistent.

I had lied and said nurse because my mother was a nurse. Girls weren’t firefighters in those days. And there, beneath the statue, beside the apples, I panicked. What else was there? What did you do if you didn’t become what your parents were? Then I thought, I’ll write books. There was no epiphany involved, only a certainty that still puzzles me, though I’d loved books for a long time already, and the need to write belonged to me at once, like something bequeathed. How do you write a book?

A week ago, I’d turned eight, and the new girl in my class, a blonde with a flighty voice had built up her gift to me throughout my party. Her mother picked it out, she said. She wished she was getting it. I opened it to find a packet of Muppet stationery and matching envelopes–the worst present I’d ever gotten. I did not write letters. But obviously, a book deserved better than notebook paper. The stationery became provident. I left the apples behind as I dashed from the kitchen and up the stairs to the bedroom where my birthday gifts sat in a pile beneath my bureau, as yet unassimilated into the room at large. On sheets of paper that had Muppets cavorting in the red borders, I began to write.

The story had been in my head since the second grade at least. I’d titled it The Secret Tree. I told it to myself during class, but had never thought of writing it down, something that astonished me that day. I was not prepared for it to be hard. Yet I quickly discovered that the words on paper could not live up to the images in my head. But with the crackpot optimism every writer must have, I put that book aside and began again, something new. I’ve never stopped writing.

And after that day, I read books differently too. They became textbooks that taught by example, maps that illustrated how a story unfolds from beginning to end. Writers must possess the ability to be still, an appreciation of silence, and the courage to fill it from their own imaginations. Reading is practice.

The white letters, bright against the building’s pale brick read, “Brooklyn Public Library,” or they had until the B, the P and the L were stolen one Halloween night. I would go to the gunmetal gray fiction shelves, find the place where my name would come and slip my hand between two books, creating a space, a void to fill.

Guest Post: “Paying Your Dues” by Laekan Zea Kemp

Hey gang, it’s another installment of The Guest Blog Post, and in this installment, the guest post comes courtesy of Laekan Zea Kemp. Over at her blog, you’ll be treated to sneak peaks of her works-in-progress, and you should help yourself to what she’s offering, because Laekan is a damned good writer. She’s also written one novel, The Things They Didn’t Bury. You can learn more about it on Goodreads, or on Amazon. I’m planning on picking up my ebook copy once my Kindle comes in the mail next week. You read right, Laekan…

Her guest post, entitled Paying Your Dues, is a gentle ode to those of us, so many of us, who still can’t afford to live the full-time writer life we so badly want to live. And that’s okay. Laekan reminds us that while we are toiling on our jobs, we are still learning, absorbing, gathering material for our writing. We are still evolving as writers. We will always evolve as writers.

Here’s her bio: Laekan is a writer, explorer extraordinaire, and recent transplant to sunny Florida. She grew up in the flatlands of west Texas and graduated from Texas Tech with a BA in Creative Writing.

Here now…Paying Your Dues.

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The monotony of a day job can be near suicide inducing. Especially when you know in your gut what you were put on this earth to do and that whatever you’re slave to every day from 9 to 5 just isn’t it. You know it the second you sit down at that bright orange cubicle, your desktop filled with spreadsheets and emails and a million other things that will never satisfy that need just simmering inside you, waiting.

Some mornings it’s hard just to get out of bed. I usually wake up before the alarm and just lay there, staring into the dark, waiting for that loud buzzer that pretty much sums up the tone of the rest of my day. For about a year I would get to work, sit down at my desk, and just stew. I was bored. I was unfulfilled. I was pissed.

I was in purgatory, still am, only now I’m making better use of my time here. Every artist—and every person for that matter—will be forced, at some point in their life, to work at a job they hate. To feel stagnant and lost. To sacrifice making art for the sake of paying their bills. But this is not a form of punishment. It’s a rite of passage.

We have to pay our dues. Not because we have some quota of suffering to reach before we’re aloud to start being happy. But because, down there in the trenches, that’s where we grow. I mean really grow. I can read every book I can get my hands on about writing and style and craft but none of it will ever teach me how to be human. Life teaches you that. Life teaches you all of the chaos and nuances of the human experience—the very thing every writer is trying so desperately to capture.

And if we do want to capture it—the whole truth and nothing but the truth—then we have to concede to a little suffering every now and then. We have to work in a job we hate, we have to overwhelm ourselves with responsibilities, we have to be disappointed and angry and every other adjective on the emotional spectrum. We have to pay our dues.

We’ve all heard the advice that if you want to master dialogue then you have to engage in conversation. You can’t just be an observer all of the time, although most of us writers might find that more comfortable. No. We have to feel the words rolling around on our tongue. We have to taste them. We have to say them aloud and measure the reaction. The same rules apply to writing about the human experience.

We have to meet people we’d rather avoid and fall in love with the wrong person and argue with strangers on the bus all for the sake of creating characters who are just as real. We have to absorb different perspectives. We have to interact with the things that scare us. We have to exist in the real world long to enough to be able to translate it.

So we are not stuck. We are sitting in a bright orange cubicle, not stewing, but absorbing everything there is to discover about this life and we are growing. We are growing even when it feels like all we’re doing is standing still.

 

Guest Post – “I’m Not Buying It” by Jcc Keith

The next blog guest post comes to us from Jcc Keith. Yeah, that’s how she spells her name. Don’t ask. Actually, I did ask. Here’s what she told me:

The Jcc stands for my first name Julie and my middle and maiden names.  When I began my social media platform, the name Julie Keith was already taken by an author, the name J Keith was already taken on many sites and even JC Keith was taken so I ended up with Jcc.  Plus I’m lazy so typing the initials is a lot easier than typing out my name all the time.

There you go. Hard-hitting journalism at its finest. You got questions, America, I give you answers.

Jcc Keith’s guest post, “I’m Not Buying It,” is about her sharing her NaNoWriMo experiences. But it’s more than that. It’s about the some little something she could have done to keep herself motivated during NaNoWriMo, but didn’t. It’s a harrowing tale of loss of control and the regaining of control. “I’m Not Buying It” will inspire every writer that reads this. And make us hungry.

A little bit about Jcc Keith, from her bio:

JccKeith currently lives in smalltown Indiana with her husband of 13 years, son and two daughters. A lifelong animal lover her home also boasts a shih tzu, a cat, three rats, a hamster and two chameleons. Growing up in a book loving family, Julie has been surrounded by books her entire life and enjoyed reading from an early age. Writing stories since elementary school she loved to write but also enjoyed the sciences. Graduating from the University of Louisville with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a concentration in Biochemistry she went on to work in the Genetic Counseling Center at Suburban Hospital followed by employment in a laboratory. Painting and writing in her spare time, she also sold her paintings on eBay. Leaving her job to return to being a full time stay at home mom has allowed her to return to her true passions of writing, painting and spending time with her family. Julie enjoys writing science fiction, fantasy stories and humorous fiction. Her favorite activity is to watch sci-fi television shows, particularly Stargate SG1, Stargate Atlantis and FarScape, while writing. For more information, check out her webpage Rogue Mission.

And now…”I’m Not Buying It.”

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Be forewarned, this post is not the stuff of literary genius and will most likely not offer any helpful insights into understanding life and the universe.  On the cusp of finishing NaNoWriMo a day early, I am giddy with excitement.  I am seriously going to have my winner’s certificate framed and hang it right next to my Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Louisville.  It didn’t cost as much as my degree from UofL but it was maybe more difficult.

You see, in pursuing your college degree, you have the option of planning your courses and making things fit to your schedule, for the most part. The classes, especially the 201 courses and general education requirements are a total breeze.  Even the tough classes, you still have the option of studying when you want to or when it’s convenient.  NaNoWriMo is not so obligatory.  You either write the 50,000 words or you don’t.  There aren’t any extensions, no excuses, just the goal and it is immovable.  It requires a daily effort to reach a daily goal.  Maybe it’s just me, but it was quite the challenge.  And I completed it.  Yay for me!

Anyway, I am quite certain you are not as thrilled as I am about my accomplishment.  Why would you be?  You have no stake in the matter, you weren’t betting on my winning or losing.  Whether I finished the challenge or not, the sun was still going to rise in the east and set in the west just like nothing happened.  Your life was going to go on as it usually does.

So let’s talk about something that matters to you.  Let’s talk about something that matters to everyone.  Snickers.

That’s right, Snickers.  Come on, you know you like ‘em.  They’re just so good.  I don’t even care for chocolate really but I do like Snickers.  The ones I like best are the little bitty square snickers they have around at holidays.  I’m also partial to the snack size snickers they have at Halloween.

This brings me to my dilemma.  I was getting ready to check out and there directly behind the line to get to the cash register was the bin of Christmas candy. They had the peppermint candy canes and the cookies to which I easily passed.  But then I saw the bright shiny red and silver wrappers of the bite size snickers.

They were only $2.99 for the bag of let’s say fifteen or so little square snickers.  I thought to myself, hmm…  $3 isn’t so much.  I could do $3 and I could definitely use the sugar high eating those snickers would give me.  At that point, I hadn’t finished my novel for NaNoWriMo yet and was in front of what could possibly turn out to be a late night.

Then I had the time to contemplate the wide scope of the situation.  I thought, you know if I buy that bag of snickers, I’d probably eat the entire bag tonight.  Then I’d want another bag or at the very least more sugary sweetness of whatever candy hadn’t been eaten from Halloween.  There are plenty of Twix and Tootsie Rolls around the house.

The problem is, all that sugary bliss would result in an expanded waistline.  I’d then have to venture on up to the mall and buy new shirts to cover up my increasing belly.  Even if I bought only one shirt or sweat shirt, I’m looking at around $20 to $30 and that is at the cheaper department stores.  But then I’d have to make my way over to The Buckle and buy a new pair of jeans to accommodate my widening hips.  For the jeans that I like, the ones that fit perfectly, I’d be spending $129 to $169.  Even if I compromised my taste for the jeans from the Buckle and went with a pair from Old Navy, I’d still be spending $30 to $40.

Once I was comfortably clothed, I would continue to feed my newly acquired sweet tooth.  This would undoubtedly lead to a rotten tooth at some point.  Given my usual avoidance of addressing such concerns until they become excruciatingly painful, I would ignore this tooth for as long as possible.  Ignoring my aching tooth would eventually lead to my needing a root canal to save my now rotten tooth.  This would, after my dental insurance pitched in their part, cost me around $1500.

The pain killers the dentist office would give me to deal with the pain from the root canal would probably lead to an addiction.  I would then be spending $2 per pill to obtain my prescription drug of choice.  This would probably amount to a $100 or more per month.

Then of course would come the inevitable downward spiral from pain killers to harder drugs.  I’d be spending $1000’s per week to fulfill my needs.  I would lose my house, probably my marriage, my kids, my pets and most likely end up homeless on the streets.

What a wasted life that would be.  I’d have no computer or internet access to share my thoughts with all of you readers.  And you see, that’s who I was thinking about this afternoon when I considered buying those snickers.  I was putting the needs of you readers first.  I just couldn’t risk it.

Snickers are a gateway candy.  Don’t fall into their trap.  Don’t buy in to the madness.