In Your Corner : Speaking Out and Speaking Strong

For those of you who are new to self-publishing and who are new to writing book-length manuscripts as well, the act of cultivating of a resoundingly authentic and consistent voice can present a particularly difficult (and ongoing!) struggle.  What is voice?  And how do we go about cultivating one, much less stick with it through chapter after chapter while negotiating other, competing concerns?

Voice, simply put, is your personality made manifest in the style, characterization, plotting, and point of view that emerges over the course of your book.  Voice is the unique approach that distinguishes one author from another, even when they’re writing the same story.  Voice sets Jackson Pearce’s Sisters Red apart from Marissa Meyer’s Scarlet apart from Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber apart from the Brother’s Grimm and their transcription of the original Red Riding Hood tale.  Distinctive voices allow us to revisit even a familiar, beloved storyline and get something new from it each and every time.

But authors are very rarely the written equivalent of a Maybelline commercial: nobody, and I repeat, nobody is “born with it” in the sense that a kitten is born adorable and fire is born when a lit match touches a candlewick.  Which is not to say any of us use cosmetics companies as standards for authorial experience, but we do sometimes fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to other authors that we respect and admire as if those authors were delivered into the universe with the tools and skill and voice requisite to connect them with their readers in later life.  It simply doesn’t happen that way!  And a captivating voice, like every other aspect of good writing, takes time and work to acquire.

david mccullough

In order to develop clear thinking and therefore a clear voice, an author must do two things that might, at first glance, seem contradictory: pay close attention to detail, and relax into the writing process.  Whoa there, you’re thinking.  I can’t do both at the same time!  And this may in fact be true: everyone’s writing process looks different.  (And mine, I must admit, even looks different from one day to the next.)  Whether you apply yourself to both of these things at the same time or separately doesn’t matter so much as ensuring that you do them both at some point.  And I personally lean heavily towards relaxing first, and then applying a microscope later––but some authors prefer to go into the drafting stage with a rigorous outline and a bundle of research already in hand, which is perfectly wonderful too.

The benefit of paying close attention is that you’ll notice when your voice changes.  I find this particularly applies when reading aloud a passage I’ve written, although that might take more time than you have if you’re reading an entire manuscript.  Keep a weather eye out for shifts in tense, plurality, characterization, and vocabulary as well as sentence structure as you go along––a sudden jump in any of these things can give a reader pause, and halt the flow of your prose.  And sometimes, these shifts slide completely under the radar; after months or even years of writing our manuscripts, we as authors simply cannot edit our own books!  It becomes impossible to hold both the big picture and the finer points of editorial expertise in mind when writing––we tend to either fixate on all the little flaws that only we can see, or our eyes skip over plot holes and inconsistencies in voice because we know what’s going on and our minds fill in the gaps automatically.  This is where a professional editor, like the ones I work with over at Outskirts Press, comes in handy.

Editing is not optional for the dedicated author, but there are all sorts of reasons––including the ones stated above––why we need to seek out fresh sets of eyes in addition to our own during the editing and revision processes.  Casual editors and first readers, such as friends and family, can be useful during the early stages, but what we all really need––what self-publishing authors specifically need––is someone on hand who can recommend changes based on years of experience and a wealth of industry expertise.  Not to mention, someone who will help you spot the points in your manuscript when you need to circle back around to a consistent voice.  A good editor may recommend changes, but ultimately, the author’s wishes and vision for a book are respected––and that is what is published.  A captivating voice is, when push comes to shove, something that taps into a shared relationship between author and text … and that sort of relationship cannot be manufactured.

voice in self publishing

Which brings me to my second point.  To create a unifying and consistent voice, an author really must relax and let the inspiration flow uninterrupted.  Jack Kerouac’s On the Road may be an extreme example of continuity in writing leading to continuity in voice, but it does illustrate the point that whatever you can do to limit your exposure to emotional and physical disruptions while writing––do.  Kerouac locked himself away for three weeks while he typed up the continuous “scroll” that would eventually form the base manuscript for his book, but you don’t have to go to such extreme measures to write a good book or to relax into the writing process!  You know the boundaries of your own mind and attention best, so you know what must be done to cut through all of the white noise generated by everyday life.  And not to harp on like a broken record, but seeking a professional editor for your book will lift the burden of obsessing over the details and leave you free to do what you do best: write.  That’s it, that’s really it: you write books, and you’ll write better books when you’re “in the zone,” or when you’re physically and emotionally free to stack word on word until something beautiful and unexpectedly perfect happens––and you have a book.

Writing is hard.  Writing well is even harder.  But you have a voice that the world needs to hear, and a book that the world needs to read.  And always remember:

You’re not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT 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.

GUEST POST: Rob Mangelson of Outskirts Press on Editing

Every once in a while, we have the pleasure of featuring a blog post written by an expert outside of our small circle here at Self Publishing Advisor.  This week, we get to hear from Rob Mangelson, an independent contractor and marketing professional affiliated with Outskirts Press, a hybrid self-publishing company based out of the Denver, Colorado area.  We’ve actually run across the folks from OP before–as recently as two weeks ago, as a matter of fact–but here we have a chance to catch a few words direct from the source, so to speak.  So with no further ado, here are some of Rob’s thoughts on the subject of editing.


A professional editor is your last, best hurdle before sending your book off to publish. While it may seem an optional service, there are compelling reasons why you may not want to think of it as “optional” – not when your reputation and product quality are at stake.

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It’s humbling to submit a highly personal work to someone we imagine gleefully buying red ink by the barrel. However, in this case, red ink is your best friend. Here are three ways your investment in a professional editor will pay for itself:

  1. An editor is your best beta-tester. Your book is your product, and there’s no better way to “test” your product before it goes to market than with a professional editor – more than one editor, if it’s feasible. A test run of how your product might perform in the marketplace more than pays for itself, allowing you to tweak your writing and marketing to reach the right readers and keep them hooked once you do. In a perfect world, every publishing author would have the luxury of both an editor and a team of beta readers, but if you have to choose, hire a pro.
  2. Editors help you get your point across. You know what you mean to say – but will readers understand the ideas you’re trying to get across? There’s no way to know until you get someone “outside your head” to view your work from the perspective of a potential reader. This is one of the main missions of the editing process, and one that ensures that your words have the intended effect on the intended target audience so you can resonate with readers – and sell more books!
  3. Editors see “invisible” problems. By the time a book is close to finished and nearly ready for publication, most publishing authors have gone through it with a fine-toothed comb, often multiple times. But no matter how thoroughly and how often you review your own work, even the most conscientious authors can become blind to errors in their own prose. Even a couple of minor errors in your book can destroy your credibility and hurt your sales, making the services of a professional editor well worth a modest investment.

Remember, editors are, like you, avid readers and writers with the added advantage of having expertise in their field. Use that expertise to your advantage to get the most polished product possible. You’ll never regret it.


Thanks for reading!  Keep up with our guests and our archival visits by watching this space every Tuesday!

Self Publishing Advisor

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6 Self-Publishing Don’ts

Unfortunately, some people have a negative perception of self publishing. This is because some self-publishing authors make detrimental mistakes that prevent their books from being taken seriously. If you want to be seen as a professional author with a successful book, be sure to avoid these six self-publishing don’ts:

1. Don’t attempt to create print-ready files if you don’t already possess that particular skill set.

You’re a writer; not a book designer.  Leave this task to the professionals and focus your time on writing and promoting your book.

2. Don’t skip the professional copyediting.

No matter how great of a writer you are, you cannot edit your own work! It is too easy to miss mistakes because you are too familiar with your work. This task requires a professional.  It is worth paying for professional editing services .

3. Don’t skip the custom cover design.

Most readers judge a book by its cover, so having an eye-catching, quality cover that professionally represents your book is essential. Most template covers will look and feel like a cookie cutter design, even if you make small changes to it.  Invest in a professionally designed, dynamic custom cover unique to your book.

4. Don’t forget the back cover text.

Once you are ready to self-publish your book,  one of the first things you’ll be asked for is your back cover synopsis and author biography. Don’t just throw something together without much thought!  Readers will look at this and determine whether or not they should buy your book.

5. Don’t rush.

Sure, you are excited to self-publish your book, but don’t rush. Producing a quality book  takes time. Be patient now, and you will be glad you did once you have a book to be proud of.

6. Don’t give up.

Some authors get so overwhelmed by all the options available to them when choosing a self-publishing company that they just give up. That doesn’t have to be you. Do your research, spend some time thinking about the decision, and then trust your gut. Don’t let fear stop you.

There are many great self publishing success stories! You can be one of them by avoiding these mistakes.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order 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, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

5 Self Publishing Mistakes You Can Avoid

Unfortunately, some people have a negative perception of self publishing. This is because some self publishing authors make detrimental mistakes that prevent their books from being taken seriously. If you want to be seen as a professional author with a successful book, be sure to avoid these five self publishing mistakes:

1)Doing the interior yourself –  You’re a writer; not a book designer.  Leave this task to the professionals and focus your time on writing and promoting your book.

2)Using a template cover –  Most readers judge a book by its cover, so having an eye-catching, quality cover that professionally represents your book is essential. Most template covers will look and feel like a cookie cutter design, even if you make small changes to it.  Invest in a professionally designed, dynamic custom cover unique to your book.

3)Editing the book yourself – No matter how great of a writer you are, you cannot edit your own work! It is too easy to miss mistakes because you are too familiar with your work. This task requires a professional.  Pay for top-notch editing services – this means using a professional editor and not your sister-in-law or next door neighbor.

4)Skipping the back cover –  Once you are ready to self publish your book,  one of the first things you’ll be asked for is your back cover synopsis and author biography. Don’t just throw something together without much thought!  Readers will look at this and determine whether or not they should buy your book.

5)Rushing – Sure, you are anxious to self publish your book, but don’t rush. Producing a quality book (one with a great cover and copyedited pages) takes time. Be patient now, and you will be glad you did once you have a book to be proud of.

There are many great self publishing success stories! You can be one of them by avoiding these mistakes.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order 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, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Book Reviews and Editing

Q: Can you tell me if reviewers ever judge based on editing/style? So many authors/editors do things differently that I guess they just look for consistency. What I was not sure about was use (or overuse) of commas. Can you tell me if commas should be in these sentences?

“That’s what I thought,” Mark said with a smile. (comma before “with”) and “Yeah, such a storm we had..” Mark said sarcastically.

Is it just preference? If so, would it look bad if the author put commas for some, and not for others?

A: Most reviewers consider everything about the book, including the cover, content, editing, writing style, plot, characterization, flow, resolution, and more.

The volume of commas is not important; what is important is that the commas must be used correctly. How can you know where the commas go, when we were taught one style in school, newspapers use another style, and book publishers use yet another style? Book authors (or their editors) should follow Chicago Style, which book publishers follow, because it dictates punctuation, capitalization, abbreviation, when to spell out a number and when to use a numeral, etc. Once that style is followed, commas will be in the right places and the volume of them won’t matter.

As for your specific examples, the first example is fine, but the second one has two periods and no comma before the attribution. It should be written this way:
“Yeah, such a storm we had,” Mark said sarcastically.

If the attribution were a stand-alone sentence, the example would be punctuated this way:
“Yeah, such a storm we had.” Mark spoke sarcastically.

Self-publishing Advice Guest Post: Ask the Book Doctor

Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at http://www.zebraeditor.com

 

5 Writing Tips on the Road to Self-publishing

1 – Employ an editing service

The most common mistakes are minor, for example incorrect word use (their, they’re, there) and simple misspellings. Check with your publisher regarding about their copy editing services which are designed to catch common errors while identifying mistakes related to tense, consistency, and punctuation. How long does it take, and what is the cost?

2 – Get a second (and third) set of eyes

Even if you don’t want to pay a professional, anyone who reviews your document will find mistakes you invariably miss. The fact is, you’re much more familiar with your manuscript than anyone else, and as a result, apt to miss obvious mistakes simply because your eyes glaze over them.

3 – Read your manuscript backwards

This allows you to become instantly unfamiliar with your story. When you read your manuscript backwards, it’s just a bunch of words, and those mistakes literally jump off the page.

4 – Read your manuscript out loud

When you’re forced to say the words your brain is forced to slow down and concentrate on the material. Bonus – you may discover stumbling blocks like awkward sentence structures and choppy dialogue when hearing your book read aloud.

5 – Use the right kind of publisher

Go on-demand. On-demand publishing offers you easy editing post-publication to fix any mistakes that may have found their way in to your book. What’s more, books aren’t printed until their sold, so you don’t end up with a garage or basement full of books with errors in them.



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Self-editing in Self-publishing

Victoria Strauss takes practice, patience, and growth in writing a step further in her recent Writer Beware! post, The Importance of Self-Editing.

In addition to learning to self-edit, she discusses the overall value of beta readers, editors, and collaboration – valuable ingredients along the way to developing a platform and identifying the market for the savvy self-publishing author.


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