Friday, May 20, 2011

Follow Up Post to the Panel At BookPeople-Important Links and Info

Last night I had the pleasure to sit on a panel at BookPeople and talk about self publishing. The event was hosted by the Writers' League of Texas and was titled "The Big Windup: Prepping Your Pitch, Proposal, and Synopsis and How to Decide Between Traditional & Non-traditional Publishing." It was hosted by Sara Kocek from the Writers' League and my fellow panelist was Lari Bishop of the Greenleaf Book Group.

The event was standing room only and quite a few attendees had to sit on the floor. I was impressed by the turn out, but I think it's further evidence how desperate writers are to find their way into the publishing world. I know how it feels to dream about seeing your book in print. I also know how it can feel to find a slew of confusing information out there about how to achieve your dream. It can be heartbreaking and soul crushing to do everything "right" and only face rejection.

So, inspired by last night's panel, here is my own guide to publishing.

I am going to try to break this down into simple bites and hopefully this will help anyone hoping to self publish (or go the traditional route) to find the resources to succeed.

First Stage

1. Write your book!
This will be hard to do, but write the darn thing. You may have to disconnect from your life for a few months, but warn everyone that you will be very selective about your social activities because you will be writing. When you are done with your manuscript it should be around 70,000 words when you're done (give or take). Most publishers do not want to see books that are over 100,000 words, but if you are already set on self-publishing you can push this number. Just remember: the bigger the book, the more expensive it will be.

2. Take a break!
Set your book aside and do not look at it for around two weeks. Go and reconnect with your neglected life. Have fun. Relax. And make sure to celebrate your huge accomplishment of finishing your book. Most people will never do what you just did. Be happy! Once your are done with your writing vacation, grab a red pen and get ready. This is the hard part.

3. Revise your book!
Print out your book and get ready with your red pen. Read your book and be prepared. You will both love and hate what you wrote. At some points you may pat yourself on the back because you did such a great job and at other points you may flinch with embarrassment.

What you are looking for as you do your read through:
1. Punctuation and grammar errors. (below are helpful websites)

2. Continuity errors
  • Example: You have someone pick up an object, but later the object vanishes from the scene.
  • Example: Someone's clothing keeps changing in the same scene.
  • Example: You establish a "fact" in your book then disregard it entirely later on.
3. Often repeated words or phrases.

I am so guilty of this at times. It sucks. But use a thesaurus if you're not sure how to ditch your favorite word.

4. Plot cohesion. Does your plot make sense? Does it have huge plot holes?

Once you're done marking up your manuscript, go back into your original document and make all the new changes. Then walk away from it for two weeks again. Repeat. If the manuscript feels solid, it is time to find a test group to read it. If it doesn't, revise again.

4. Build your author platform.
Create an online presence for yourself by establishing a blog using or Create a facebook account just for your book. Blog about your dream of becoming a writer and your progress or about any other subject that connects to your fledgling writing career or your writing. Connect with other writers in your genre. Remember to be positive and attempt to keep a regular schedule (if possible) with your posts.

5. Get some Test Readers
At this point in the process, you will need a group of test readers. You can pick friends, but they should be friends that are willing to kick in your teeth if the book isn't up to par. They should be able to give you constructive criticism. You can also connect with a local writing group or find one online.

The website Absolute Write has a very valuable forum for all writers that you should check out. You can find a lot of support there and important information. I strongly advise all writers to join if you are just starting out.

After you receive all the feedback from your test readers and address any issues they pointed out, read through your darling one more time. If it feels solid, it is time to move on. If it doesn't, revise again.

Second Stage
(If you are going the traditional route)

1. Make sure your book is in manuscript form.
2. Write a cover letter.
3. Create a synopsis.
4. Subscribe to Writer's Market so you will be able to find an agent or publisher
5. Compile a list of agents (or publishers) that represent your kind of book. Follow the guidelines to the T. Do not send your full manuscript if it is NOT requested. I cannot stress this enough. Follow the guidelines exactly.

6. As each rejection notice comes in (and you will get some), cross that agent off your list. Keep on going until your either find an agent or run out of your list.

7. Make sure the agent you sign with understands your novel and is someone you can get a long with.

8. Understand that having an agent does not mean your manuscript will sell, but your chances just got a lot better.

Good Luck!

Second Stage (If you are self-publishing)

1. Be realistic with your expectations.
Sit down and write out your goals and aspirations. Determine how much time and effort you are willing to exert in making your dream come true. Be realistic.

2. Establish your budget.
Self-publishing will cost you money. If you have enough money to go to a turn-key company that will do everything for you (editing, cover, formatting, etc), and you don't want to deal with doing anything yourself, make sure you do plenty of research to find the right company for you. If you only have limited funds, you will need to work out your budget carefully. Editing will cost you the most money and is worth the investment.

NOTE: If you self-publish, it will not matter how well your book is edited, you will still get criticized for the editing. I know people who spent a lot of money on a professional editor and readers still attacked the editing. It is an almost automatic response by readers when they see a book is self-published.

Resources For Editing
I used createspace for my books and they now offer editing.

At the Absolute Write forums, editors also advertise their rates.

Resources for Cover Art
A lot of small publishers go to
If you find a piece of artwork you like, contact the artist to see if they would be willing to sell their artwork for your cover.

Also, createspace now offers cover art services.

You can also create your own cover using stock photos, your own artwork, a friend's artwork, etc.

Createspace has a cover creator now on their website.

Createspace also has a template creator you can use. Just plug in your book size and how many pages it will have.
You will need to have Photoshop or Gimp to use it. Gimp is open source and is free here.

Interior Design

My friend (and fellow author) Kody Boye does a lot of interior formatting for small presses and independent publishers. He is incredibly affordable. You can reach him at kodyboye @ You can also find resources for interior design at and

You can also do it yourself using the templates at

3, Publish Your Book!!
Once your book is in perfect order (cover, editing, interior), you can use Createspace to publish to all the amazon online stores. Createspace provides publish on demand publishing. In other words, someone orders your book and it is made just for them. Createspace also publishes Kindle. If you want to publish your book to all ebook formats, go to

I highly recommend Createspace because they are affordable and you get more bang for your buck. But it will be up to you in the end.

Remember, bookstores rarely sell self-published or small press books. If you really want to see your book in a bookstore, you may need to work a consignment deal out with them.

4. Market!
Be creative and go for it. If you wrote a non-fiction book about a particular subject, attend shows or events that fit into that subject. Rent a booth and promote yourself. You may not make your money back, but people will begin to remember your name and may buy later. Pass out flyers, excerpts from your books, and be friendly and nice to everyone. Contact blogs or online blogtalkradio shows that talk about your subject. Offer to be a guest blogger or a guest on their show. Keep your blog updated. Post on your twitter and facebook. Connect with online groups that enjoy your book's subject matter.

Good luck!

Important Resources
The Indie Author's Guide
Absolute Write
Writer's Digest

Free Software To Use (Make sure you do the tutorials)
yWriter (the best writing program I have ever used)
Open Office (it's like Microsoft Word, but free!)
GIMP (it's like Photoshop, but free)


  1. Rhiannon, I just wanted to say I really enjoyed hearing from you last night at Book People. I've been going to the panels since February and you've been one of my faves because you were so passionate and feisty and upfront about your POV. I'm not quite a zombie, vamp gal, although escapism is always up my alley and I'm now curious to pick up one of your books. You inspired me to know what my thing is and own it and be able to talk about it. Thanks! And I wish you lots of luck. I'll be looking for your book on my Kindle soon.

  2. This is all great stuff. It's a long road. You are right about being realistic with your goals. I tell people, "Don't set the bar too high, you might hit your head." :)


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