Self-Publishing News: 3.3.2020

Word MARCH. Vector decorative unusual object

And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

Medium has become a welcome home for many excellent long-form articles unaffiliated with major news companies in recent years, and this article from Sumbo Bello of EDGY Labs–a “trend forecaster and SEO incubator providing guidance and end-to-end Enterprise level SEO solutions for Fortune 500 brands” according to its ‘about’ page–is representative of the kind of exciting material you can now find on Medium and other long-form-friendly web platforms. Where better to find a quality article describing some of the best content-creation tools out there for writers than a web platform that is itself a content-creation tool? Meta. “The best writing apps are those that help content creators attain a crucial goal, and that’s efficient writing,” Bello writes in the opening line of this piece, citing deadlines both internal and external as one of the main drivers behind the decision of which tool to use. Bello also notes that “Arguably, some of the most efficient writing tools are those that help optimize language mechanics and still cover SEO components like keyword density and relevancy.” (emphasis his) We were delighted to find this summary description list of platforms including the usual heavyweights of Google Docs, Apple Pages, and Microsoft Word–as well as several we are less familiar with, including FocusWriter, Scriviner, Final Draft, and Vellum (but his list goes on). We should note that we do not advocate for any one specific tool among these, especially given that many are paid services, but the information Bello includes is detailed and rich enough to hopefully help you make a decision if you are yourself on the hunt for a new tool, paid or free.

Once again we return to one of our all-time favorite topics in the news section of Self Publishing Advisor: the Zine! This early but time-honored form of self-publishing was absolutely critical to the development of interest in as well as tools to produce later self-publishing options such as on-demand print capabilities and responsive, timely turnaround from writing to publication. Zines were mostly locally distributed (but with some key exceptions) and were mostly individual projects (ditto) and focused around some niche or highly specific area of interest (ditto) … but they have proved an enduring form of what can only be described as a hybrid of art and print publication. Which is why we are so excited to see this article by Jeff Oloizia in Encore celebrating a recent zine exhibition at UNCW. “The best zines,” writes Oloizia, “are transgressive in their activism, born of any number of underground subcultures, and fly in the face of mainstream art and publishing norms.” They’re also, as the exhibition demands audiences to consider, a form of public artistry and worth enjoying and respecting as such. The exhibit described here by Oloiza will remain on display until April 3rd, but zines, as always, will live on indefinitely.


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As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

 

 

Guest Post: Submitting Your Own Manuscript? Here Are 5 Tips

Nowadays there are four main ways to get a book published.

A. Submitting it to a traditional publishing house. If they accept it, you’re golden. And while they’ll handle some of the marketing, you will still need to market it.

B. Independently publishing it yourself by working independently with editors, graphic designers, book formatters, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers. And of course, you still need to market it.

C. Submitting it to one of those free online places.  Which presumably means you’ve already worked with editors, graphic designers, and book formatters. Fortunately, those free places do take care of distribution and sales for you. And of course, you still need to market it.

D. Submitting it one of those full-service self-publishing websites. They can handle all of the above, and maybe they’ll throw in a little marketing, depending upon who you choose. But you’ll still want to market it.

Regardless of which path you choose, there is one consistent component: your manuscript.  And it is in your best interest to make it the best it can be BEFORE you consider sending it (or uploading it) anywhere else.

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So, with that in mind, here are 5 things to keep in mind when it comes time to finalize your manuscript for submission.

1. Don’t insert hard paragraph breaks after every line. You can see where hard returns are in your Microsoft Word document by holding down CTRL-SHIFT-8. That bold “paragraph symbol” shows you where the hard returns are. They should be only at the ends of paragraphs. Traditional publishers probably won’t care, but it’ll wreak havoc with the other three, since in all likelihood, your book will be a different size than your 8.5×11 manuscript, and those hard returns will end up in the middle of lines instead of at the end of them.

2. Don’t manually insert hyphens.  Same problem as above. Your word processor should hyphenate words automatically, unless you have that function turned off. But even turning off auto-hyphenation is preferable to manually inserting a hyphen yourself. A manually inserted hyphen will cause all sorts of problems during interior book formatting, so be sure to remove them from your manuscript before submitting it.

3. Don’t use ALL CAPS. You may be tempted to capitalize words for emphasis, or for book titles. In both instances, italics are preferred. This doesn’t cause technical formatting problems so much as perception ones.

4. Spell check your work. All word processors have built-in spell checking. Even if you plan on having your manuscript professionally edited before publication (the traditional publisher will handle this, but for the other three options you’re on the hook, at least for paying for it), it is a good idea to run your spell check program on your manuscript prior to submitting it, just to fix all the “easy” mistakes.

5. Check your grammar. Most word processors also have built-in grammar checking, although they are admittedly poor. There are better (and free) alternatives on the Internet. One favorite is Online-SpellCheck.com. Simply cut and paste your manuscript, a chapter at a time, into the online form and Online-SpellCheck will not only identify spelling errors your word processor probably missed, but it will also catch other common grammatical errors such as contextual misspellings, commonly switched words, typographical errors, and more.

Additionally, there is a popular Chrome extension to consider: Grammarly (at Grammarly.com). This browser extension runs in the background on the Chrome Internet browser and checks spelling and grammar “on the fly” as you enter words into online forms. This is very useful for completing a publishing process error-free and is handy for other marketing endeavors after-the-fact, like writing on blogs, for instance.

Obviously, there is no substitute for a professional human editor, but complementing professional editing with Online-SpellCheck and Grammarly is the perfect hat trick to almost guarantee an error-free book.


brent sampson

In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the President and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including The Book Marketing COACH, Self-Publishing Questions Asked & Answered, and Sell Your Book on Amazon.

Guest Post : How to Plot a Novel

Novels are about characters and relationships (or should be), but plots are about something that happens. How can you be sure that your plot is properly structured and that your characters are playing the proper role in the proper way? By using this fun and easy method:

person typing on typewriter
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Get an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper and fill it with a Tic-Tac-Toe grid (or pound sign symbol, if you prefer).  Then enclose the lines with an outside box and you are left with 9 blank squares. Number the boxes from 1 – to 9 starting at the top left corner and going from left-to-right on each row.

Place the single major incident that happens in your novel in the center square, box number 5.  And since everything that occurs in a novel should somehow be connected to that one major event, this blocking scheme will help you place (and pace) appropriate characters, events, and twists in the appropriate parts of the story leading up to (and in the aftermath of) that event.  Boxes 1 -4 (the beginning portions of the novel) all must lead up to that major event.  Boxes 6-9 (the ending portions of the novel) involve the fall-out, climax, and resolution from that event.

Box #1 in the upper left-hand corner is typically where the protagonist is introduced, hopefully in a dramatic way that entices the reader. Box #2 in the middle of the top row is typically where the antagonist is introduced. You will also notice that since Block #2 is touching Block #5 directly below it and Block #1 to its left, that the antagonist must play a key role both in the protagonist’s character and in the major event of the story. Box # 3 in the upper right is where other major characters and perhaps (hopefully) the major love interest is introduced.  After all, what’s the point of reading (or writing) a novel that doesn’t involve love?

So in the top row of our grid we have The Protagonist, The Antagonist, and the Love Interest. Therefore, each major character plays the largest role in their own column.  Of course the protagonist is featured throughout, since he/she is the protagonist, but Blocks 1, 4, and 7 are his/her starring sections. The antagonist plays the largest roles in the middle column (Blocks 2, 5, and 8); and the love interest owns the right column (Blocks 3, 6, and 9). Not coincidentally, major turning points occur at the end of each row (always related to the love interest; it’s what the protagonist fights for, right?)

It could be argued that the center column is actually the most important, because that is the column where the major event takes place in Block #5.  Part of the point of this 9-block device is to ensure a book is properly paced, with sufficient build-up (ie, motivation), and sufficient fall-out, and all the emotional highs and lows that result.   But it would be a mistake to assume that just because the major event is in Block 5 that nothing happens until half way through the book.  The opposite is true.  Something notable must happen in EVERY single square (otherwise, why write about it?).

Now that we’ve discussed the columns, let’s discuss the rows. The top row involves the beginning of the novel, and if you’re a 3-act structure traditionalist, you would say Row 1 is Act 1, Row 2 is Act 2 and Row 3 is Act 3. In row 1 you introduce your characters, and lay the ground work and emotional motivations for everything that takes place in Row 2.  The plot-outline-blocks of this 9-Block device can help you determine where in the story each character should be introduced based upon that specific character’s involvement with the plot.  The middle row is arguably the most important (for the same reason column 2 is the most important) because it involves the major event of the story.   And finally, the bottom row (Act 3) involves the character’s lowest point, the turning point, and the dénouement (the final resolution), respectively.

Block #4 traditionally involves specific build-up and motivations to the major plot event in Block 5, which is the centerpiece of your plot. Block 5 is also the one square among all of them that is connected to the most adjacent squares, so important characters or events leading up to this plot point must be present in Block #2 and Block #4, while important consequences must be present in Blocks #6 and #8.

Block #6 in the middle-right is where another major turning point of your novel should take place, which is further complicated (and motivated/caused) by the major event that just took place in Block 5.  And, more importantly, that turning point in Block 6 should lead to the “emotional low” of your novel, when everything is at their darkest. This is Block #7.  A protagonist driven to his or her lowest point is sometimes driven to drastic measures and this is where events and characters introduced in Blocks 1 and Blocks 4 make another appearance, thus fulfilling requirements of foreshadowing, and demonstrating you are well in control of your craft as a novelist.

Typically a major twist leads to an epiphany and is what motivates the final climax (often some sort of emotional or physical confrontation), and this all occurs in Block 8. Given its direct proximity below Block 5, it’s probably no surprise that the epiphany or twist, as well as the climax, are all directly related to the event that takes place in Block 5.

The final block #9  in the lower right hand corner is where the dénouement begins and all the plot points are resolved, not out of the blue, but by connecting dots left in adjoining Blocks 6 (the second major turning point) and 8 (the results of the climax), while all involving the “love interest” or character/motivation introduced in Block 3.  Resolutions cannot occur without the proper foundation, and novels cannot end without making a statement (of some sort) about the nature of love.


brent sampson

In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.

In his capacity as the President and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including The Book Marketing COACH, Self-Publishing Questions Asked & Answered, and Sell Your Book on Amazon.

In Your Corner: Common Spelling Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

typo errors spelling mistakes

Have you ever made a spelling mistake?

Well, you’re human (probably), so I’m going to guess that you have. I definitely have. Just the other day, a friend went through a chapter of my latest manuscript and pointed out at least five typos and other errors which had slipped entirely by me.

So, how do we avoid these pesky little guys, spelling mistakes?

The first step is to recognize them for what they are: your brain being highly efficient, not deficient. Research indicates that typos and other errors rarely come from a lack of knowledge or training, but rather from the brain being focused on something else, like narrative, plot, characters, time management, and so on and so forth. These are higher order processes, really quite sophisticated, and as such they take a lot of brain power which otherwise might be spent looking for other things, like typos. Your brain is a beautiful and efficient thing, with certain priorities it doesn’t always share with you, but that’s okay. Just … don’t kick yourself too hard for each typo your friends catch when they read your manuscript. (Yes, I tell myself this, too. Every day.)

The second step is to know which mistakes are the most common. That way, you’ll be–yes–more efficient at catching them. There are struggles that come from words being similar in shape and sound but having different meanings, like foreword and forward. This is called a homophone error. One implies direction (forward) and one is a structural component of a book which serves as a preface or introductory note, usually including the “whys” and “wherefores” of the thing. Complimentary and complementary are also homophones. One means to deliver praise (complimentary) and one means to accessorize well or that one thing works well with another, as in complementary colors. These kinds of errors are what Google was invented for; never be ashamed to look up a word if you’re afraid you might not be catching all of its nuances!

Other common errors include trouble with suffixes and morphemes (substituting “-able” and “-ible” or “-ance” and “-ence”), defying the so-called ‘laws’ of spelling (i before e except after c, u always follows q, et cetera), mixing up how to pluralize tricky words ending in f or y, and composing adverbs. These are common struggles, particularly for people who did not learn English as their first language, and the only way to improve on these is to keep writing. A lot. And to keep a reference guide on hand, like this Business Insider article on these language acquisition-related errors. And again, don’t feel shame about hopping on Google for these.

The third step is to fix the errors yourself, if you can. Don’t rely on spell check for this, since Microsoft Word and other word processors rarely understand nuance, or know how a whole sentence fits together and which words do not fit. (Sometimes it will highlight perfectly acceptable sentences as grammatically broken, and not highlight sentences which need some work.) You should always proofread your work, but you want to make sure you do this after you finish getting all of the ideas out of your head. Some people prefer to set aside five or ten minutes after each daily writing session for this process, but the ideal time is after the whole manuscript is done and you can sit down and do it all at once. That way, you won’t struggle with continuity issues. Also, it’s just … more efficient! Keep a reliable resource to hand–something more comprehensive than that BI article, like the Chicago Manual of Style (there are pocket editions) or the Associated Press Style Book. I really like the MLA Pocket Style Manual, which is what I used in college. They’re updated every couple of years, these resources, so update your collection appropriately.

The fourth and final step is knowing when to let go. As in, when it will be more useful and efficient to place your manuscript into the hands of a professional editor. Trust me, this is no easy decision! The tendency is to feel resentment, or fear that the editor will change the material substance of your work in a way that will make it … less yours. But that’s not what editors are for, much less copyeditors, the professionals who dedicate their lives to examining other peoples’ writing on the sentence level. Know the difference before you go in–we’ve written about editors vs. copyeditors here on SPA before–and choose accordingly. But do choose! Friends and family make for excellent first readers, but you really do need that trained eye on your work if you want to catch the peskiest of all errors, because your readers will find (and mind) them even if your friends and family don’t.

Writing is hard. Finding errors is harder still. But …

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: How to Rewrite WITHOUT Going Off the Deep End

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? FAcing the manuscript, the first draft, with the question “What’s next?” dying on our lips, and a growing realization sitting like a lead weight in our bellies: Rewriting. That’s what comes next. The Elysium Fields of publication seem to hurtle themselves back into the distance, once so close we could almost touch them, and that’s how we find ourselves staring at our computer screens at six in the morning, wondering how not to tear out our hair over the rewrite process.

I have some thoughts on that.

  • Take a clue from your normal writing habits.

This is assuming you have writing habits, of course. I’m an extremely disorganized writer, which means I’m writing at all times of days, usually in my pajamas with a cup of tea, but sometimes with a bowl of pretzels. Still, take a clue. Rewriting is often a point of contention because it doesn’t feel like “real writing”–it feels more like butchering something you produced while doing “real writing.” So put yourself in the same creative space, frame of mind, and habitual place as you would if you were generating new material–and make the leap to recognizing rewriting as an opportunity for creativity, too. Maybe if you feel the way you do about “real writing,” you can trick yourself into resenting it less! That’s my theory, anyway.

  • Pay attention to your body.

Some of the writers I went through school with ascribed to the “starving artist” stereotype, churning out reams of paper on old-school typewriters at 3 AM fueled solely by cigarettes and certain controlled substances. These authors were incredibly productive–to a point. They were also complete emotional wrecks who could do nothing else with their days than write (often disorganized) manuscripts. But you and I? We can’t afford to burn the candle at both ends, to let ourselves be eaten up by life-destroying fuels like these. We have lives and families to take care of, that we delight in taking care of, when we’re not writing. So writing, of course, has to take its place among an ever-changing, always difficult to manage, list of priorities … and the only way to manage them all is not to go off the deep end. So: pay attention to your body. You will produce your best work, and leave the most room for life outside of writing too, if you take care of this collection of bones and blood vessels and brain cells to the best of your ability. Write healthy, with a full meal under your belt and a full night’s sleep just over with. Don’t rely on anything that’s not good for you to be your brain fuel–even the seemingly harmless caffeine, which in point of fact is a strong bowel irritant and likely to break up your concentration with a half dozen bathroom breaks each writing session. (It also, naturally, will dehydrate you–even if you’re constantly chugging caffeinated liquids.)

  • Alternate between a “GET-UR-DONE” attitude & a more forgiving one.

Look, for some people, it’s never going to be fun, this rewrite thing. But constantly punishing yourself for not getting it done is counter-productive, and will leave you feeling more and more dissatisfied with the whole process over time, just as constantly forgiving yourself for not working on it will also snowball into a giant lump of self-loathing and regret. So: set yourself some deadlines, and carve out some time just to slam away at that keyboard. But also: establish some boundaries within which you can forgive yourself for not being as productive as you’d like, and etc. Always remember that rewriting, like “real writing,” requires moderation in all things. So alternate between those driven and those relaxed modes of working, and you’ll find yourself chipping away at the monolithic manuscript, despite your fear of the thing.

  • Accept change.

Duh, right? Only … no. This is actually the hardest part: reconciling your original vision for a book with what’s coming off of the page before you. There’s no more obvious place or time for this to happen than during the rewrite, when your analytical mind is hard at work trying to sew up loose ends and fix flaws. But producing something with a mind of its own isn’t a flaw–it’s a natural consequence of creating interesting characters who evolve past your original vision and into something greater, more complex, and … different. If you can, take a step back and admire the reality of what you’ve written instead of wasting time and energy bemoaning the departure from your intent. Then approach your book the way a professional editor might, from a mindset of: “This is what I’ve been given to work with, so how can I make it the best possible version of itself?” instead of feeling cheated of something different. You’re your own harshest critic, remember? And whatever you’ve put on the page, predicted or not, changed or not, is magnificent and wonderful–and we’re proud of you for it. Work with and not against this new and wonderful thing! You won’t regret it.

rewriting

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.