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Friday, September 30, 2011

Recommended Reading for Authors, Part Two

Dwight V. Swain.  Anything by Dwight Swain.  He's a legend.

Recommended Reading for Authors

This is a quickie post.  One book (among several) that I would recommend for authors is Robert McKee's Story:  Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting.  Find it at Amazon here:  http://www.amazon.com/Story-Substance-Structure-Principles-Screenwriting/dp/0060391685/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1317385540&sr=8-1.

I know, I know.  "Screenwriting" in the title.  Still, I maintain it is great for authors.  If you've ever seen a screenplay, it notes "Stage Left" or "forest" or "bedroom"--very minute snippets of description.

And if you've ever done NaNoMo (National Novel Writing Month in November, "thirty days and nights of literary abandon"), then you should know about getting the basics down--the "substance"--which you can plump up with emotions and details and description (of people and of places) later.

More recommended reads coming in future posts . . . .

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

About These Grammar Lessons . . .

I am a freelance copy editor for a large New York City publishing house and have been for more than three years and one-hundred-and-three manuscripts.  I have grown in my knowledge with almost each project because there are over a gazillion possible sentence constructions which stretch the application of the grammar rules as set forth in the nearly one-thousand-page Chicago Manual of Style aka the CMS.

So if my lessons within this blog post seem rudimentary, they are.  In my decades of reading books, I've found wonderful stories that were marred by simple words being misspelled or the failure to get across a thought or the meaning within its sentences that led to reader confusion.  Each detracts from the pure beauty of the storytelling.

A couple points come to mind at this juncture.  One, I believe it was Michael Jordan who practiced the basics of basketball for hours, even after he was setting new records in the sport.  Two, I read somewhere that our writing (whether commercial or corporate, I do not remember) should be addressed to an eighth-grade comprehension level.  That's sad in my opinion.  How true it is, I do not know.   But both of these examples show the need to look at the basics of our communication.

Thus my recent grammar lessons.

Plus, we have a flux of Indie-publishing authors and I want to simplify our complex grammar rules for them.  Hey, if I had had someone who could reduce the 956-page CMS to the usable nuts and bolts, I would have loved it!  I've learned through copyediting, which sees the minute details, amid a novel's story world, which sees the big picture.  Those little things help explain the larger message for a particular piece of fiction.  That is where I began to notice things that were not necessarily spelled out within the rules but were put into practice each time.

It is all about communication.  Getting the author's thoughts down into words which convey the right mental image within their reader's mind.  It is harder than you think.  Telling someone seems so much easier, what with our hand gestures, our facial expressions, our tone of voice, a laugh here and there.  Translating that to paper is tough, as any writer knows.

So maybe this is one of my life's purposes--to be able to encapsulate our convoluted English language setup so that it makes sense and is easy to remember and works within all those various reincarnations (those exceptions I mentioned above).  To make what may seem dull and boring, and with so many rules, into something fun and interesting and understandable.  To share my love of words and my love of the written word with others.  That is my goal.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Quick Grammar Lesson Number Three: Proper Nouns/Names

To cap or not to cap, that is the question here for our Indie-publishing authors.

This one is easy.  If you can find the name on a map (for an actual geographic place/landmark) or on a birth certificate (for real people such as factual details for a biographical work), each are proper nouns/names and should be initial capped (each word starts with a capital letter).  Same thing holds true for your fictional towns and made-up characters because your readers expect a character's name as well as that character's town/city and state to take that format.

Of course, shortening Elizabeth to Liz is commonplace and both require a capital letter at the beginning, because even though Elizabeth may be one lady's given name and thus shown on her birth certificate, so can Liz be someone else's actual given name and also typed that way on her particular birth certificate.  A shortening of a name does not make it a nickname per se.

However, true nicknames, pet names, not a derivative of a first name, such as sugar, sweetheart, dumpling, honey, baby, sweet pea, etc., would all be as shown here with no initial caps.  Just to be clear, I am only using italics for emphasis.  When you use a nickname in your manuscript, no italics are necessary, unless you are being snide or snarky and want to show that to your readers.

Look up within Webster's "nickname" and then "proper name" which bounces immediately to "proper noun" for the distinctions discussed here.  Your chosen style manual should confirm as well.

There are accepted exceptions to every rule, but just keep in mind what makes it clear to your reader.  Like if your heroine's name actually is Sugar . . .

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Law of Expansion and Law of Compound Interest

No, this post is not about finances.  But it is about our lives and what we get in them.

I have been close, in family or at work or with friends, to several people who were fighting with cancer.  In each and every instance, the core personality of that individual was amped up.  If selfish, they became uberselfish.  If kind and giving, they were more so.  If self-contained, they withdrew further.  If "poor me, woe is me," then they hunkered way down into their victim mentality.

There are two sayings which, paraphrased here, go something like this:  You see the real manner of a man when you put him in the depths of despair or in the heights of power.

I find that to be true.

So, use these Laws, of Expansion and of Compound Interest, by thinking the best, acting out of love for yourself (don't be a doormat) and your innate love will spill over to love of others.  I believe cell memory holds onto our thoughts and the good ones produce health while the bad produce disease.  It is your choice.

Oh, and one final note:  When these people had cancer, the first noticeable symptom was bad breath that would not go away no matter what mouthwash, what toothpaste, what superficial device was used.  And that makes sense since their bodies were trying to throw off this toxic pollution from deep within.   

Here's to everyone's health and well-being.  Take good care of you.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Yesterday--the official first day of Fall--I was hit with a Christmas-cheer boatload batch of anticipation.  I don't know what specifically brought it, but there are the usual suspects:  God in His Heaven, sowing and reaping at work, a taste of fall when we here in the DFW Metroplex have had, it seems like, one hundred days (not all in a row) of drought and triple-digit heat that could frazzle more than a couple nerves.

I think that is why God created the seasons.  One of our basic needs as humans is variety.  Thus, the seasons.  Although this year, after that summer we just had here in Texas, I am really, really looking forward to having a full season of fall.  However, if you have ever lived in the Lone Star State throughout all four seasons, you know we're not usually dosed with three months of autumn.  Hopefully, this year is different.   We've had a monster winter, a windy spring and one burner of a summer.  Shouldn't it follow that we get a full-fledged fall?  I hope so.

Anyway, my anticipation symptoms include:  I'm filled with housecleaning energy, with a less workaholic outlook (that's a good thing from this workaholic on overdrive for the last few decades), wanting to cook more, wanting to sit out on the patio with a cup of coffee and just sit and contemplate life more, and on and on it goes.

I'm still looking for the great . . . something . . . that all the cells in my body are waiting for with awesome anticipation.

So, here's wishing that happy expectation on each of you.  Let me know what yours was.  I'm curious.  After all, I am the creative author type.

My Novel-Writing Mode

If you are an author, you've been asked before if you are a plotter or one who writes by-the-seat-of-your-pants.  I'm the latter.  Although at first I do have vague ideas about the beginning, the ending, the three try-fail scenes.  But I'm more fluid about sticking with them as-is.  After all, imagination is King and allowed to reign free for the most part with me.  Thereafter, as things jell, my plot becomes more rigid, more set.

I'm definitely a character-driven author (again as versus a plot-driven work).  So I get my stories from people, real-life ones I see in 3-D or ones depicted in magazines or stills--or blogs.  One such photo, that launched itself into my mind and right into a fast blip of a short movie clip, came out of a magazine ad (for what, I do not remember).  But there was a woman in a flannel lumberjack shirt, standing relaxed in front of her open door, coffee cup in hand, gazing at the snowcapped mountains.  That tale still resides in me, awaiting release.

One was a beautiful tan self-assured girl in safari garb driving an open Jeep which passed my DART bus on my way to my less-exciting day job.  I've posted about her before.  I'm still gonna write her story at some time--"her" story in the way my creativity sees it, that is.

I get ideas from TV shows and books and movies, too.  I love Murder, She Wrote (TV series) and J.D. Robb's In Death (book) series.  I love how each protagonist is a good person, trying to do right, amid all the wrongdoing they see.  Plus my first-ever written story, a short-short creation in response to a required homework assignment for my seventh grade English teacher, was a mystery.  So, I definitely have at least one mystery to be written from within my DNA.

While I love my characters I embellish, there are some other loves of mine that I pair with them.  Being an entrepreneurial-author type, I like to choose different careers for my guys in my novels.  So you probably won't find a doctor, a lawyer or an Indian Chief among them.

As for settings, I love my Deep South roots.  So you will see that reflected in my tales.  But I yearn to see Paris, France and other European sites (also found in my genetic makeup), so that is inevitable as well.

Then there are those topics where my own interests lie, so my personal research/learning would end up being info/knowledge used for later books.  Again, I'm tied to mysteries, thus drawn to Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids.  Overlay that with just a general awe over creation itself and you would understand why landscapes pull me so, like sunsets and sunrises, and nature walks and hiking through parks, etc.

If you are a fledgling author, do not despair.  Ideas will come to you as you read a newspaper and ask "What if . .  .?"  What if I took my next-door neighbor merged with my boss and my mother and put this newly created conglomerated individual in this scenario from today's news, what would happen next?  What would the life of my rich (or poor) friend look like from an insider's viewpoint?  What if I took a traditionally male job and put a woman in it?  What if I took a marriage and made the woman the breadwinner and the man the at-home caretaker?

Examine the works of others you love which work on many levels.

I love Firefly (the Joss Whedon TV series--too short-lived!) and the follow-up Serenity movie, not to be confused with the supposed first episode named "Serenity."  I still watch it over and over on DVD.  If you study Joss's character cast, you see a bunch of neat twists and turns just with the makeup of his cast.  You have Serenity herself, the ship, which acts as much as a main character as it does for the setting, the cowboy past comingled with the spaceship future.  Genius.  Double genius.

You have Mal, the ship's captain (a necessary character), but this one is flawed and we love him all the same.  He has his yes-man subordinate, Zoe, who acts as his conscience and will speak up when she feels it necessary.  She's the fighter/warrior married to the wimp-like ship's pilot, Wash, and their relationship is hot and inspiring.  We have the onboard renter, a professional companion, Inara, who secretly loves Mal who secretly loves her, amid all the whore-bashing rhetoric he flails her way, which definitely appeals to the more tormented love seekers who watch the series and may yearn for the Zoe-Wash marriage, but are currently not there yet, still in flux.

To round out the ten-character cast (I'm counting the spaceship Serenity), there is the shepherd, aptly named thus, and this crew is in need of his and His help.  You need a mechanic on any ship, and who doesn't love Kaylee?  She's our naive, sweet, optimistic young girl with the heart of gold.  Her down-to-earth girl-next-door good looks are just as beautiful in their way as Inara in her decked-out, bejeweled, Glamour Shot, model-perfect version.

Jayne is the guy you love to hate.  He's our in-house nemesis that you end up policing even while you are fighting a greater terror, like the Reavers.  Simon and River Tam were a brilliant addition to the cast.  First, it makes for an uneven pairing of the crew/cast, and it certainly added an interesting element to the "Out of Gas" episode.  Second, River is an entertaining conundrum, going from insane-acting person to superior IQ intellect to cockney-accented foible.  She's great.  Third, the brother is a doctor taking care of his patient, but his patient is smarter than he is.  I find him an odd mixture of hero and wimp.  Probably as Joss planned.  Fourth, it adds another element to an enemy to be fought, both within their ranks and from without.

Joss, you are another of my mentors.

Still, for those newbie authors, don't be intimidated by the genius that is Joss.  Follow it like you can do the Eight Archetypes or other external guideposts.  Not to be discounted is the factor of you.  You have no farther to look than inside yourself.  Write about characters that personify your greatest values.  Write about situations where the good guys or underdogs win.  Write about causes you wish to elevate to make the world a better place.  Write about what you love.  Move your readers to care, to shed a tear, to write a donation check, to improve themselves somehow.

You CAN make the world a better place for you having been here.  Do it.  Write from the heart.  Start now.

Next Grammar Lesson: Dealing with N-Dashes and M-Dashes

You can go your whole life without needing these two.  HOWEVER, if you are an Indie-pubbed (my shorthand term) author doing it all yourself, you have need to know.  These punctuation marks are also called the En Dash and the Em Dash.

As set forth in earlier posts, my style guidesas a freelance corporate copy editor and as an authorinclude Webster's 11th edition and the Chicago Manual of Style 15th edition (or more commonly called the CMS, used for both novels and nonfiction work).   You may need a medical-based style manual or, if you write for newspapers, you will be using the Associated Press Stylebook aka the AP Stylebook.  Choose yours.  No matter the reference guide, there are still unifying guidelines throughout.  Like using nouns, verbs, punctuation marks.  Like if you are a U.S.based English-speaking person, spelling book as B-O-O-K.

For those of you interested, the N-dash along with the M-dash can be found within MSWord's word processing system under the Insert tab, then choose Symbol and finally click on the Special Characters tab.  The regular old dash we all use to make hyphenated words is the shortest.  Then the N-dash is a little longer, but the M-dash is the longest.  You may have used one without knowing it.  Anytime you have used a double dash to add in a side thought, well, you were using the shorthand typing version of the M-dash.

Here's an example of where each should be used:

Hyphen:             He is one good-looking guy.
N-Dash:            The verse can be found at James 1:13.
Also N-Dash:    A North Dakotastyle cold front struck our southern city. 
M-Dash:           She was young and tanned and probably weighed 120 poundsoh, for the day when my scale stopped there!
Also M-Dash:    "I just thought" she bit her lip "that you cared for me."

So hyphens we probably all know how to use within the grammatically correct sphere, or can confirm with a quick check of Webster's.

If you are with a big or little publishing house, their production department works with the design of the books and the special characters, so they will have people to change any misused hyphens to their proper N-dash or M-dash punctuation before the manuscript is printed.

Again, if you are both the publisher and the author of your Indie works, then here's the scoop:

The N-dash is used for numbers (like the Bible verse quoted above) or for two-word proper nouns being modified into an adjective grouping (like North Dakotacold being used as an adjective.)

The M-dash is for those off-tangent thoughts, to set them apart from the main line of thinking.  The M-dash can also be used within dialogue (see above) in place of the ellipsis (that three-dot punctuation mark that denotes a longer pause than say a comma and probably an interrupted speech pattern, either cut short by the speaker or by another person).

Webster's remains a monster go-to reference guide and, I'll repeat from yesterday's post, it gives a short grammar lesson when you look up "apostrophe."

The difference in the length of each of these dashes is miniscule, yet I think it serves a great function.  Even if our eye registers the three of them as "alike," I think our brain connotes the difference and gives each its own weight.  Like the shortest one, the hyphen, the dash, makes two-word combos into, essentially, one word.  Our readers skim over them just like the word "a."

I believe the N-dash is there to cause our neurons to take note, to take just a jot's pause to realize we may have read the location for looking up one verse, but it is actually the span of several.  Or to give our northern-based readers cause to smile when they read of a North Dakotacold weather front hitting the South.  And the big onethe M-dash.  Shows us to take a moment to shift gears.

Our English grammar rules really do serve a function.  Like well-placed commas tell a reader when to pause and a period when to stop, then move on.  Isn't it wonderful that we can communicate to our readers "watch out, missing letter(s) here" by the simple use of an appropriately placed apostrophe.  It kind of boggles the mind.  Like the order of the universe.  But that's just it in a nutshell.  Order.  So consult your reference guides, or hire a qualified freelancer, and keep on learning.

P.S.  See today's additional Quote below, courtesy of Michelangelo.  It is so appropriate.  He states "I am still learning."  So true!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Two Down and Dirty (and Easy to Remember) English Grammar Tips

I need to know this stuff to make for clean, concise communication when I copy edit another author's work, as well as for my own use when I am writing my novels and in my nonfiction How-To books.  So I'll share my insights with you, distilling down a select pair here to its essence--what it does, how it works in our sentences.  If you understand the "why," then it is easier to replicate later.

This post has to do with commas and apostrophes.  Before you change screens, answer me this:  Do you know how to make "you all" into the proper contraction?  It ain't "ya'll" if that was your first response.


Just remember that ONE of the ways to use an apostrophe is to show A MISSING LETTER OR TWO.  So, you all would properly become y'allDo not becomes don'tCannot (yes, run together, not two separate words--check out Webster's for yourself) becomes can't.  Whenever you have a missing letter or two, that is where you place the apostrophe.  So "because" would become "she said so just 'cause."

Another usage of apostrophes is to show possession, but that gets involved, what with plural possessive alone, so we'll just skip that until I have the time for another grammar lesson.


There is some debate about the serial comma--for example:  She carried her books, lunch and coat in her arms versus She carried her books, lunch, and coat in her arms.  I happen to think the first version is the way to go.  And for a couple reasons.  Number one, it's less messy, less cluttered.  But, number two,  mainly because of this tip:  When using a comma to separate individual adjacent words (apart from the clause-based comma as shown outside of the closing parenthesis here), only use a comma where there is not already an "and" (avoid duplication) or where "and" would still work (ensure clarity).  A comma CAN mean "and."  You don't need both, in my opinion.  Therefore, if you already have an "and" there, don't use the comma.

Plus there are some cases where an adverb modifies an adjective or another adjective modifies an adjective and you don't need a comma because you don't need an "and" there.  Here's a sentence to illustrate:  They were having pretty cold weather.  In this instance, "pretty"--which can be an adjective, noun, adverb or verb--is working as an adverb.  "Cold" is acting as an adjective modifying the noun "weather."  But you don't even have to have a working knowledge of adverbs vs. adjectives vs. nouns.  All you need to know is that you do not need a comma between serial words if "and" would not work there in its place.

Again back to our sample sentence:  They were having pretty cold weather.  If you believe this sentence needs two commas, insert an "and" where you think the commas should go.  Try reading this and maintaining the intent of the original sentence:  They were having pretty and cold and weather.  Not good.

What if you decide it just needs one comma?  Then you end up with a sentence (under the "and" construction) that would read:  They were having pretty and cold weather.  Still not the meaning intended.  Therefore, I contend this sentence needs no commas because "and" does not work in its stead.

Does that help?  I hope so.  Whether we are authors or bloggers or have need to write something for general consumption, we should communicate clearly.  Commas, of course, can have other usages--like setting off an introductory phrase as I already pointed out above or it can set off a phrase within a sentence in such a way that if you took out the opening comma and the closing comma and all the words in between, then the sentence would still make sense when read (like taking out ", of course," near the beginning of this sentence).

The English language is replete with grammar and spelling rules.  Some make sense, some don't.  But regardless of whether you are writing for a literary audience or a reading-for-fun audience, whether you are writing dialect (y'all) or colloquialisms (soft drink vs. pop) or slang (gonna) or jargon (send the RFA and RFP ASAP to the DA), you now know if you need commas and also where to place the apostrophe when you cut out some letters from the Webster-based spelling of a word.

Even Webster's will give you a short grammar lesson when you look up the word "apostrophe."

Oh, and you should have your favorite reference books from which you can state, "This is why I do this."  Be it Webster's 11th Edition and the Chicago Manual of Style 15th/16th Editions (for fiction and nonfiction)--which happen to be my two go-to volumes--or the Associated Press Stylebook (aka AP Stylebook for newspapers), at least have a standard to follow.  There are various style manuals out there.  Search the web for the medical-related version and others for the one you most need.

While you are searching the internet, Webster's has an online dictionary that now has a tab entitled "New Words & Slang" which may be of help to you.   Look for it at http://nws.merriam-webster.com/opendictionary/ or check out http://urbandictionary.com.

A final note.  There is such a thing as a "style sheet" within the traditional publishing houses.  It is called a "sheet" and not a "manual" because it is just that--pages, not a bound book for sale.  For the house where I freelance, they have chosen to override certain Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) rules.  The "style sheet" DOES NOT replace the 956-page CMS "style manual."  That would be like saying the list of the twenty words that the local third-grade students need to learn to spell by next week will now replace ANY dictionary.  No.  Of course not.

I hope this sheds a little light on a very complex subject.  For us authors, we need to be some order of grammarians to communicate well with our readers.  When I was young and devouring books, I sat with a dictionary by my side, looking up words that I did not understand.  Now that I am an adult and an author, I really don't want my educated readers pulling out Webster's like a challenge in Scrabble to prove whether or not my word was misspelled.  I don't want my novels interrupted by anything--for I want my readers to finish my books in one sitting.  To be that engrossed in my creation is my goal.  Thus, I plan on removing any such distractions from within my tales.

So turn on spell check and grammar check within your word processing system for your commercial writings, as well as clicking the spell check icon provided for within your blog or your email program or even on the Kindle Boards.  Utilizing this simple tool will stop your reader from taking an unplanned detour from your words to consult a dictionary instead.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Word Dynamo at Dictionary.com

If, like me, you are a logophil (I know; looks weird without the E at the end, but this is the preferred spelling per Web11) or maybe a lexicographer or an author with a lust for the etymology and meaning of words, then check out Dictionary.com, specifically the Word Dynamo section.  It's a word game and you are besting yourself.  My first test scored me as knowing 45,517 words, which put me in the next-down-from-the-topmost section.  After each test you take, you will be credited with more words to your knowledge.  Somewhere amid all my test results, and after the addition of 382 more words, I came out in the highest tier, Dynamo Level.  Wahoo!

It is great entertainment and there are many sections (by topics) you can choose to peruse.  So I have more fun wordplay to look forward to.

For anyone who loves word games, brain teasers or the like, this could be for you.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bob Mayer's Blog

I'm a fan of Bob Mayer's blog, Write It Forward, but today's is gonna be a long-time favorite.  I've added it to my Favs list on the right-hand panel here on my blog, as well.  It is entitled "The Real Gatekeepers in Publishing Now?  Authors"--about how we control our own destiny.  About writing good books.  About getting the word out.  About backlists--which just means, continue to write.

There is a great quote that sums up the "just write" mentality.  Here it is, courtesy of Annie Dillard.

"How we live our DAYS is how we live our LIVES."  [emphasis mine]

So write daily.  Consistently.  Persistently.  Don't let the devil on your shoulder tell you that one page isn't worth it.  That fifteen minutes spent writing doesn't add up to a novel one year later.  Keep at it.  Build up your backlist day-by-day.

Keep writing.

Ginger Root Tea Is My New Best Friend

I had a summer cold (an oxymoron for sure) and with just one cup of ginger tea, I was on the mend.  If I had taken the time to brew it again, I may have kicked it before the week was up.  You know the old saying:  the cold will be gone in one week if you take XYZ medication, or it will be gone in one week if you do nothing.

So here's my modified recipe.  It's like the hot toddy, only without the rum.  Peel a one-inch segment of the ginger root, then grate it into your water to boil in a pot.  Once it begins to bubble, turn off heat, put a lid on the pan and set your timer for ten minutes.  One online recipe said to strain the ginger root out of the tea, but I like it left in.  I'm of the pulp camp.  Also, it's just gotta be that much better for you, right?  Add some honey and lemon juice.  The honey has medicinal properties all on its own (besides being the only food that never spoils) plus the lemon juice (like vinegar) may have fever-reducing benefits.

And . . . it tastes wonderful.  Today I am enjoying the overcast weather in the Dallas Metroplex that promises rain.  I can smell it coming.  For an area that has been through a severe drought over the last couple (or more) months, rain is a good thing.  A very good thing.  Have a great week, y'all!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

God Bless Us

On this tenth anniversary of 9/11, my heart is full of prayers for everyone--the loved ones lost, the survivors, the emergency personnel who worked ground zero, the volunteers from all over, the service personnel who went back to the Pentagon, the search dogs, the people who put out flags everywhere, the prayers our nation has lifted up.  God bless us and keep us.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

David Farland to Guest Blog

David Farland, the fantasy author, aka David Wolverton, the sci-fi author, will be guest blogging here sometime in late September, early October (to be announced later).  No matter the exact date, Dave is always welcome. 

He is known for his Runelords series and the Scions of the Earth series, as well as his books entitled Of Mice and Magic and In the Company of Angels.  See DavidFarland.net for more info about the man and his many books.

I first “met” him probably four years ago when I signed up for his free Kick Me newsletter—where he became my mentor and teacher regarding being an author and all that it entails.  As I’ve stated in an earlier blog, it has been like taking a great all-encompassing writing class from him for the last several years.  Thank you so much for all you have given me.

Dave has started a publishing company, East India Press, and Nightingale will soon be released in enhanced book format.  It is exciting to see what this author, screenwriter, game creator and otherwise creative entity can come up with.  Check out his publishing website at www.EastIndiaPress.com.  The graphics alone are beautiful.  But the rest of this site will expand your mind into the new realm of publishing.

How to Indie Publish (in a Nutshell)

I’m of the Indie camp, much like I am of the Edward camp but with feelings for Jacob.

So I believe, even while you unpublished authors are awaiting that dream agent and that dream contract from your first-choice dream publisher, you should Indie publish in the meantime.  Traditional publishing (Trad pubbed) is going through some changes and still takes a year or two to get your book in print, so why not earn money now on your creative endeavors by uploading to Amazon and Barnes & Noble as you send out queries? 

In my current day job, I have found two newbie authors who have inquiring minds.  I have so much to share just having gone this far on the journey. 

Here’s a quick overview of what I did.

  1. Write a good book, regardless if fiction or nonfiction.  Keep writing.  Whether you focus on one and finish it before you start another, FINISH one.  It is not as easy as some make it look.  I have two completed novels, one 215 pages and growing plus the other 400-plus pages—both in need of the Final Edit.  But I also have eight new stories started.  Keep notes of good ideas you get, wonderful conversations you overhear with a desire to place those in a future novel.  Remember, just as quickly as you get these ideas, they can flit away as fast as you can blink.  Back up those WIPs (works-in-progress).  Print them out (think Y2K).  You can NEVER recreate those exact words.  Trust me.
  2. Join as many writing groups in your area as you can find time to attend.
  3. Read as many books on writing as you can put your hands on.  This means going to the library and then, when you find a gem, buy that book to add to your own personal library—or take copious notes.  I’m on a budget but books are my jewelry, and I buy them at Half-Price Books or used ones from Amazon.
  4. Read as many books from authors you love.  Learn from them.  See where they break the supposed “rules” and pull it off.
  5. Spell Check/Grammar Check.  Turn on spell check and grammar check within your word processing system and take the time to really consider the words or phrases it brings to your attention.  This one step alone could elevate your book over the masses.
  6. Edit/copy edit your work--whether you do it (under the right parameters), your valued critique partners (CPs) do it or you hire a freelancer to do it.
  7. Cover Art.  Again, you do it or you hire it out.  NOTE:  Nook requirements for the pixels are different from Kindle’s.  Check out book covers that grab your eye, whether in a brick-and-mortar store or online.  Are you drawn to certain colors or landscapes over people?  Decide.  Use that info to create the cover YOU want, regardless if your genre is romance and you “have” to put a half-naked man on the cover.  NOT.  You are in charge.  You choose.  Make it the best cover for that particular book.  Think out of the box.  In fact, imagination is king.  Where better to release your creativity than in the creative world of writing books?
  8. Front Matter/Back Matter.  Check out paperbacks in the bookstore, hard covers in the library.  Pattern the organization of your book after those.
  9. Give more.  I have several things currently at the back of my books:  a “success formula” and a prose poem on my success philosophy.  However, I am currently amassing a collection of my favorite quotes to supplement these goodies already at the end of my books.  Plus, I am playing with making bookmarks out of my covers and adding them to my e-books as well.  I can never have enough bookmarks.  If my readers are like that too, then they can print off my bookmarks onto card stock, cut them apart with a paper cutter and voila!  Five new bookmarks.
  10. One great idea I’ve heard of, and confirmed with Amazon, is the positioning of links to your other books within each of your offerings.  If you read the Amazon contract, there is language about “no advertising” in your books which seems like a teaser for your next book tacked on the last page of your other books would be a no-no.  Hence, the link.  Not an advertisement, yet takes your reader directly to other books you have written.  Now THAT’s marketing at its best.
  11. Read all the Indie publishing info within the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.
  12. Uploading.  Again, read the Kindle and Nook How-To articles.  Uploading is easy, yet takes a little time.  I did both my e-book and my cover art uploads by myself.  If you can afford to have a third-party do it and save you some hours, spend that time you recouped doing something worthwhile—like more writing.
  13. Have a book blurb ready to upload as well.  Study cover jackets at the book store or online Amazon descriptions to give you ideas.
  14. Decide which two “sections” your book most appropriately should be slated for (like:  nonfiction, reference or fiction, romance).
  15. Create your Author Page on Amazon.  This is your Bio.  Mention your other books.
  16. Tag your book online at Amazon and B&N.  This is where more particulars define your work:  comedy, humor, baby-related, etc.
  17. Marketing.  This is not my niche.  Read about that elsewhere.  Knowing this is my weak area, take the rest of this and compare it to what the experts are saying.  I’m doing bare bones marketing:  I have a blog.  I’ve done the Amazon Author Page.  I think my second greatest marketing idea is the link within each of your books that leads to your other books (which I still need to do).  Having other books to offer your readers is the greatest marketing idea of all (which I am already doing).  Keep writing great books!
My first two nonfiction books were uploaded March 26, 2011.  My first royalty check was received May 27, 2011.  My third nonfiction book was uploaded June 8, 2011.  I received two more royalty checks by the time this blog posted.  My debut novel is slated for uploading November 2011.

I did this while working a “day job” to supplement my freelance corporate copyediting work as I penned my novels.  I’m working easily eighty-hours-a-week.  But loving my new career and all the possibilities!  What I gave up cannot compare to what I have.

I did it.  So can you.  Go for it!