From the Archives: “Give me six hours…”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.


[ Originally posted: August 7th, 2009 ]

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and
I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
– Abraham Lincoln

Let’s look at breaking down your self-publishing book project into the short, mid, and long range in terms of the process in goals. The actual time involved for each phase varies with each author and each project. Nevertheless, you’ve worked hard on writing, revising, and preparing your book for publication. Congratulations. The first step or phase is done or nearing complete, and it’s time to publish.

Many authors confuse this second step – actual publishing – with step 3. Let’s slow down and take a closer look. Phase 1 is the writing, or artistic phase. Step 2, the publishing or business step. Time to begin sharpening the axe. Upfront prices are important, but take the time to avoid the ever present instant gratification of free and quick publishing and research beyond. What kind of pricing control will you have? Professional production options? Will your book be situated to retail competitively on the market? What kind of marketing services and options are available after publication? These are critical questions to ask as you research full-service self-publishing options, customize your mid-range work, and begin to look at getting your published book into reader’s hands. Now your prepared to chop the tree.

– by Karl Schroeder

Karl’s recommendations for breaking the publishing process down into three simple steps has as much to offer the self-publishing author in 2016 as they did in 2009. The steps are straightforward:

  1. Writing (the “artistic” phase)
  2. Publishing (the “business” phase)
  3. Publishing (the “chopping of the tree” phase)

There’s some lack of clarity between these two final points in Karl’s original post, but there doesn’t have to be. Think about it more like the distinction between planning and execution, which in reality ought to be separate steps and given equal weight from the outset. If the planning is not given your full attention, the execution can only ever be mediocre. And your book deserves better than mediocre!


There are plenty of services out there to help you organize your plan and navigate the oft-hazardous process of publishing. If you’re still in the process of writing your book and you need a little more structure, I can’t begin to recommend the Scrivener writing software highly enough. Better still, you can try it for free for 30 days, which if you’re doing NaNoWriMo this November may be just enough time to knock out what’s left of your book.  If not, the renewal fee is minimal. It is, at its core, a digital studio space.  That’s Stage 1 taken care of.

If you’re at Stage 2, however, it might be time to reach out for help.  In doing your research for Stage 3, you will have stumbled across any number of companies offering self-publishing services–but how many of them have customer support?  Even if you’re not ready to commit to a specific company, it’s well worth getting to know who’s on the other end of the line when you call in.  In the case of Outskirts Press, you’re hooked up with a Publishing Consultant almost right away. (A real live person, in the age of the Internet?? Amazing.)  Some of your early questions can be answered by such a person, but if your questions require further attention, it’s worth paying (a reasonable amount, one would hope) someone like a Personal Marketing Assistant for that insight.  After all, as Karl said, marketing needs to start before your book hits the shelf.  It’s more of a lifestyle than a small component of a larger project.

Stage 3 is easy if you have knocked out the first with your customary thoroughness, in part because extensive planning will have made you aware of what you value most in a self-publishing company, and what steps to take once you’ve chosen one.  It might seem simple or reductive to break the publishing process down into just three steps … but then again, it works!

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog,

Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer: 11/13/2015



Distractions plague every writer. I’ve heard authors bemoan the frustration of an unintentional interruption that threw their story-thoughts into chaos. When I attended the Estes Park writers’ conference this past May, I learned an excellent solution to resolve this problem. Here are a few tips to keep our imaginations focused INSIDE the story.


Research immersion:

  • Are you writing a memoir? THIS IS AN ADVENTURE that you’ll never regret! Whether looking through a box full of old photographs or reading an ancestor’s diary, researching the lives of family members who have walked this earth before us IS FUN and FACINATING. You become the investigative reporter of the people, places and events that occurred years before your birth, so when you see a photo of Great Uncle George dressed as if meeting royalty, research into his clothing (top-hat to spats) will fill in many of the details that imagination alone cannot. Follow the clues!
  • Have you become so intrigued by time period in that memoir that your imagination is flying with conjecture and answers to your “What if?” questions? There is a NOVEL brewing within.
  • Now the research will go deeper. START a new file and throw in all the data you can find about the lifestyle of each stratum of economics in that time period and place. Clip images—artist pieces and/or historical photos—and begin a visual imaginings
  • Look to other authors who have written about this period of history—and READ their books—whether they are fiction authors or historians.
  • Build your story as if you are living the life of your main character.
  • Wear his/her cloths (figuratively speaking—or literally, if you can find them in a costume shop).
  • Work IN their daily life career path.

From my high school and college days until I became serious about writing, even hearing the word “research” would send me in the opposite direction. However, being an only child, I loved to read and journey beyond my back yard to places I’d could only imagine.  My favorite novels were historical fiction and science fiction. Both are steeped in research in order to provide the authenticity and the feeling of living in that time and place. Now, what I’d learned and appreciated in my youth became a vital part of my writing life.

So, DON’T FEAR THE “R” WORD. Embrace it! Research is a friend that will support your imagination and let it fly! It will build a solid foundation for any genre of writing you choose. Plus, research in extremely valuable in choosing the publishing process for your work—whether you attempt of find a mainstream publisher or make the decision to self-publish. ⚓︎

RoyaleneABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 04/03/15


OH the history of it all! Are there any readers out there who will agree with me that the TV series, Downton Abbey, is possibly the best they’ve ever seen produced? The research must seem daunting, yet it is obvious that their team of writers loves what they are doing and dig deep into history providing authenticity and reality.  The lives of the characters of Downton are greatly affected by actual events such as the sinking of the Titanic (etched in my memory because of Molly Brown, resident of Leadville and Denver, Colorado) and  World War I.  They’ve also lived through the Spanish flu pandemic, the formation of the Irish Free State, the Teapot Dome scandal, and the UK’s general election of 1923. POINT being made: Setting requires historical research on multiple levels.

Below are research tips you might want to consider:

  1. Think about ancestry.  The geographical and cultural influences within that geography will give you excellent foundation for the current setting your characters live in.  For example, if they (or their parents) came to the U.S. from Ireland or Italy the setting/stage of their growing up years (or their current environment) would be in distinctive neighborhoods within “The Bronx.” Several Chinese and Japanese migrations created “China and Japanese Towns” in nations, states and cities around the world. It is the ancestral influences of values, attitudes, food preparations, etc. that develops unique settings—distinctive differences in home interiors, office spaces, restaurants, etc.
  2. Importance of Cultural, Social and Political environment. This aspect also plays into the development of your characters and their perspectives.  However, in relation to setting the stage for them, look to the images available online about the time period of your novel. For example: The political stage of Abraham Lincoln’s first nomination for President of the United States is dramatically different from the political stage we see today. Lincoln had only about 18 months of formal schooling, yet practiced law and was accepted as “highly qualified” to be President. He promoted women having “the vote” in 1836. He was the first President to use the telegraph. Yes, indeed, in that Lincoln Era the political stage was a unique place.
  3. Eras of Historical Significance. Throughout known history those who have a passion for such studies have divided the years into several geographic and national categories.  They include Ancient History, The Postclassical Era, and Modern History, which are further delineated with such categories as Ancient Rome or the Six Dynasties (of China), etc. Events (important to a specific setting) that have happened during the Era you’ve selected will give your novel the same authenticity and reality that is mentioned here about Downton Abbey. One other point to consider when researching your specific era is to learn about the population of the city, town or village where your characters came from and are IN currently. This element will help you fine-tune the “feelings” of characters as well as place your readers with them.

AS you’ve probably deciphered by now, research is a big part of novel writing. It is absolutely necessary that you—the writer—are able to “walk the streets” with you characters, cook in their kitchens, sleep in their beds and read the headline stories in their newspapers.  If you are able to “set the stage” to such a detailed degree, you’ll most certainly have a BEST SELLER.

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.