Category Archives: publishing

Self-Publishing 4

Do it yourself self-publishing can be a scary thought, but if you can write a book and get it ready to publish, then you do have enough skills to get that book out there. I took the plunge and so can you.

What made me change my attitude from scary to possible? Sure, I talked to others who had done it, but I was still hesitant, until I came across a book by Lucinda Moebius called Write Well Publish Right. First of all, I was interested in reading a book about writing from a high school and college teacher. Her book is what she teaches her students from beginning to the end at publishing. Mainly, I thought maybe I could implement some of her concepts into ideas for teaching language to small groups. Moreover, what I really took away from this book is that it is possible for me to self-publish a book.

Lucinda states that it is easy with the use of the formatting guides available through ePublishing platforms. She hired a formatter for the Kindle version of her science fiction books, but formatted the Smashwords version on her own. Also, she had help with her cover, hired an editor, and went through Amazon CreateSpace as her printer. Many times she states that it is up to you to do your own research and do what is best for you.

Yes, she inspired me, so I went to and got started. There an author can put in the title and paste in your manuscript and cover. Remember you have to have an ISBN number for your e-book, another one for your print book and CreateSpace can provide them for you. I did have to hire help with the e-book, my son did the front cover work, then I hired Fiverr for the spine and back cover for which I paid a little extra. Instead of five dollars with Fiverr, it was ten dollars and I’m very happy with their work.

I learned that the CreateSpace process for me was somewhere between adding art and print to a Vistaprint writing advertisement to doing my own taxes (on an easier year).

Yesterday, I went to hear multi-published author, Joanne Pence, give a talk about self-publishing at my local writers group in the Boise area. After already using CreateSpace, I learned the following information:

For those of you that want to add a publishing name to their self-pubbed books, Joanne says that you can go through SBA.GOV for your assumed business name. Registering a name will cost you $25.00. For my writing business name of Melland Publishing, LLC, I went through the Secretary of Idaho and paid $100.

Joanne also says that off-white or cream is the paper color of most fiction books. The 6 x 9 inch book size is becoming the industry standard and costs less than a book sized 5 ½ x 8 1/2 inches. You can buy a cheaper, older version of Adobe Photoshop on eBay for making your own covers.

Finally, Joanne adds that, especially for multi-published authors, the value of going to and using them exclusively to sell your e-book for your first 90 days can give you five free days on Amazon. It’s a way to get your name out there in hopes of readers choosing to buy and read your other books. After 90 days you can renew with them, or you can put your book into an .epub format and download it to other bookselling sites.

Yet, as Lucinda says, you need to do your own study and then decide what is best for you.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Are You Ready for Indie Publishing, Part II

A Haunting in Trillium Falls_Mary Vine.jpgYou can find Are You Ready For Indie Publishing, Part 1 here:

I’ve written and edited a book, asked other writers to read it and then I made changes. So, now I’m ready to start the steps to indie publishing. Yes, I wallowed with whether I should try to submit this baby to a publisher, but only sent it to one who rejected it. After some disappointment, I reminded myself that with three published books to my credit, this is the one I’d chosen to branch out with.

To be sure, I talked with other authors about the self-pub business. Many found success and encouraged me to do the same. An indie author referred me to Indieromanceink, an email loop for those who are, or plan to be, an indie author. It is a large group of writers that ask questions, or answer them, and there’s quite a bit of knowledge to be gained from this site.

An incredible amount of work to self-publish is necessary and it can be downright scary. First, you need to hire an editor to do a line-by-line edit, especially for a first time author. Some suggest two editors. It takes hours of time to read about marketing to prepare for launching out on your own.

There are two things I just don’t know how to do, and don’t have the time or inclination to learn. Number one is: Cover art. There are many indie writers out there doing it all, including the cover art and some a very eye-catching. I am lucky to have a designer, graphic production, multimedia, digital artist guy in the family to do mine.

Number two is to publish the e-book and send it to various outlets. I chose Wildflowers Books, a division of The Wild Rose Press to self-publish and distribute my book, A Haunting in Trillium Falls. The cost totaled $199 and the package includes a digital ISBN, conversion of the book into various formats, and distribution to the following retailers and partners:
Amazon Kindle
All Romance
iTunes (iBookstore)
Barnes & Noble Nook
Overdrive Content Reserve (distributes to libraries and various retailers)

Whether you are published first or not, marketing your book(s) takes time and scheduling time to write is the one thing most authors struggle with. It’s like going to school to be a special education teacher and when you get the job find out you are overwhelmed with so much paperwork that you have little time to work with the students that fascinate you so much. Yet, going the indie route with an e-mail loop has helped me learn volumes about the book publishing business which seems to change every day. And to top it off, you will earn more money on your own for that book you’ve created after hours of hard work.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Tips for Submitting Manuscripts for Professional Critiques

In a workshop I took last fall, Heather Petty, a very wise author, shared some tips for submitting queries and manuscripts. One of her tips appeared numerous times: follow the submission guidelines. It’s so important, she repeated it.

I found out recently just how annoying it is when authors don’t follow submission guidelines. Our SCBWI region is hosting an event we’re calling The Great Critique, and I asked authors to submit their manuscripts via email as an attachment, in either a pdf or doc format. Most of them got it right. A few put the text of their manuscript in the body of the email. Some sent me a link to google docs for theirs. A few asked who to mail it to.

Since some of these manuscripts were going to agents and editors for paid critiques, it was pretty important that they be correctly formatted. And I asked the authors to resubmit them correctly.

But there are other ways authors don’t use their best judgment in submitting for professional critiques. So here are a few random tips from someone who is often sending manuscripts from authors to agents/editors for these kind of paid critiques. It’s not exhaustive, but it should help.

1. Send only your absolutely best work. Not your first draft for sure. And not a draft that your grandchildren really liked. If you have a regular critique group or one or two trusted readers, make sure they’ve seen what you plan to submit before you send it. Then you’ll be sending the best possible work you have. The reasons for this strategy are many. The most important one, I think, is why would you want an editor to associate your name with anything that is sub par? No, said editor is probably not going to offer you a contract based on ten pages she critiques, but if she ever sees your name again, wouldn’t you want that association to be a good one?

2. Follow the standard formatting of manuscripts. These include double-spacing, 12 point type, a normal font (usually Times New Roman), decent margins, and numbered pages. Even if you’re submitting electronically and the agent/editor can manipulate the text on the screen, why make them work harder to read your story? And make sure to use only single spaces after sentences–it’s so annoying to read ten pages thinking the entire time: “one space. One space.” Make sure there are no typos, your dialogue is correctly formatted, and your paragraphs aren’t too long or too short. Show that you are a professional.

3. Know your genres. If you are submitting a picture book text, it better not be 2,500 words. That proves to the editor that you don’t know anything about the current picture book market. If you’re submitting YA, the protagonist darn well better not be 12 years old. If you don’t know what defines a certain genre, then your manuscript is far from ready for a professional critique. You need to do some research, take some classes, join SCBWI or another professional organization, but you aren’t ready for this.

4. You don’t need a cover letter, a note, an explanation, or anything else. If the guidelines ask for a synopsis, it should be one page or less. The same care and attention should go into your synopsis as your manuscript. Most of us find these truly difficult to write, so don’t just dash one off and assume it’s fine. It needs to capture the basic elements of your action plot as well as the emotional plot. All materials not requested just get recycled, so don’t waste the paper.

5. Know whether your manuscript is appropriate for the professional who will be reading it. This is a common issue with agents/editors who speak at conferences. We often invite authors to submit manuscripts for critique when we have an agent/editor speaking at a conference. But not all agents rep all genres, and not all editors acquire all genres. All of these folks have web sites. At the very least, take a look at that before you submit. If you have a picture book, but the critiquer doesn’t do picture books, don’t waste your money. This is clearly not a genre that this person loves, nor is this person going to have much to say that will be useful to your manuscript. Save yours for a chance with a professional who is totally into your genre. At larger conferences, where there are a wide variety of speakers, you might have a better chance at getting connected with a critique in your specific genre.

6. If you are lucky enough to receive the critique in a face to face interaction, be polite, prompt, and open. Don’t argue or get defensive. Let the professional do most of the talking. You want to learn from them. If you are receiving a written critique, read it, then put it away, then read it again in a week. Our natural response it to think they are stupid and totally misread everything we meant. But a week later, our defensiveness has dissipated and we can be more objective. Usually, we see that the agent or editor was spot on.

7. Don’t get the same manuscript critiqued over and over. Most of these kinds of critiques usually want the first 10 or maybe 20 pages. Work on the rest of the manuscript too. Don’t work the opening to death. Each reader is going to have a different opinion, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed and confused when you have too many opinions. If what the first critiquer says make sense to you, then take those suggestions and use them as you revise your entire manuscript.

8. Never forget that some of the best critiquers are right here, your peers and colleagues. Yes, we all value what an agent or editor has to say, but sometimes you will get far more usefulness from peer critiques in a group setting than anywhere else. Don’t discount those valuable fellow authors and their knowledge.


Tags: , , , ,

Cookies and the Book Sale

As many of you here know, I recently sold my first book, Drift (details here).  Unsurprisingly, there’s been happy celebrating at my house, mostly in the form of tasty baked goods.  Good occasions call for good treats!

Despite a bounteous number of cookies, my day-to-day is largely the same.  I outline.  I write.  I revise.  I critique with my writer’s group.  I submit short stories.  All those skills and habits I’ve worked so diligently to develop are still used and improved upon.

But I write because I love writing.  I love tearing up a first draft into something semi-coherent.  I love line-editing and polishing later drafts into smooth prose.

Of course I’m excited for the day my book comes out.  I’m thrilled that I’ll be able to tell readers where to find it.  More celebratory delights will certainly face the awesome caramelizing power of a 350-degree oven and meet their doom of milk and gnashing teeth shortly thereafter.

But today?  Today I’m excited to dive into chapter three of a brand-new manuscript and wrestle out that next plot point.  Tomorrow I’ll be excited about chapter four.  And sometime down the road, I’ll be excited about streamlining the prose and marching through line edits.

What are you excited about writing today?


Create Writing Connections

One of the best investments you can make in your own writing career to to attend conferences. Sure, they cost money, and I’m often the first to use no money as an excuse. But it’s money well spent. What business can prosper and survive without investing in it? If you are ready to take your writing seriously enough to invest in yourself, congratulations.

The conference I want to tell you about is our regional SCBWI (that stands for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference in Boise, Idaho, April 27. You can register for it here. And even if you don’t write or illustrate for children, that’s okay. It will be an awesome conference. Here are a few highlights.

Sare Megibow

Sara Megibow, an agent with Nelson Literary in Denver, will be speaking on a number of topics, including Connecting with Ourselves as well as Choices in Publishing. These will cover flip sides of the coin: turning inward to connect with yourself as a writer, and turning outward to seek out the best route to publish your book.

Karl Jones, an assistant editor and jack of all trades with Grosset and Dunlap (a division of Penguin), will wow us with his techniques in how to pitch your story. Karl tells me he does this on a web channel, and it’s very popular, so I asked him to recreate the experience with us. He’s also got some other magic under wraps for the day.


In addition, we have Miriam Forster, whose debut novel, City of a Thousand Dolls, came out this past May. I’ve been in critique groups with Miriam, and she is a talented author and delightfully fun person. She will share two of her favorite topics. First, she’s going to wow us with the wonder of How to Connect to Your Reader with Social Media. Miriam is well acquainted with all kinds of social media, and you should be too. Her other talk will be about World Building. In Miriam’s book, she creates an amazing and realistic fantasy world with such subtle skill you hardly even realize it. Learn how to do this in your own writing.Miriam

Author Anne Osterland will be on hand to help us focus on creating awesome characters, plus she will be talking about the small stuff, the details that bring a story to life.


Sherry Meidell, a picture book book illustrator, will offer her insights about what makes a good picture book. Beginners in the children’s lit world often set their sights on picture books, so we have asked Sherry to help answer all the usual questions about how picture books are made and how you write one. Since she’s an illustrator, she’ll have loads of slides to show. I love going to illustrator talks, because I am not a visual artist, and it always amazes me how they think of story in pictures.


So you have the opportunity, in one day, to learn about:

  • creating intriguing characters
  • building a fantasy world
  • how to use details to bring your writing alive
  • using social media to your advantage to connect with your readers
  • connecting with yourself
  • pitching your ideas
  • making picture books
  • multiple platforms for publishing

And, you’ll meet people with whom you might bounce around ideas or become critique partners. You might talk with Sara at lunch and realize she’s the agent for you. Or you might find out from Karl Jones that his company has work for hire gigs you might like.

For me, one of the best things I get out of conferences, and I’ve been going to them for more than 12 years, is the inspiration. Always, I come away with new ideas, new perspectives, and even new friends. Whether you are a beginning author or and old pro, you never stop needing inspiration and growth. I hope you’ll join us in April.


Grammar Lesson

I edit manuscripts for other authors as part of my freelance business. And while I focus more on the big picture stuff, there are also times when little things like punctuation just annoy me to tears. Grammar, punctuation, and spelling do matter. You should never, ever submit a manuscript with errors of this kind that can be easily fixed.

By now, you’ve probably seen the popular meme that shows two versions of the same sentence:

Let’s eat Grandma!


Let’s eat, Grandma!

One little comma changes the meaning of the sentence entirely. In the first, we’re going to actually eat Grandma. Now this might be what you mean if you are writing about the Donner Party or a horror story involving cannibalism. But if you mean to be telling Grandma you are ready to eat, you better have a comma.

There are also very important reason to use commas correctly to separate items in a series. Such as: I ate grapes, mangoes, and bacon. If you leave off the final comma, it connects mangoes and bacon–which might be what you meant. Mangoes wrapped in bacon. Hmmmm. But if you meant each item separately, then you need the comma.

Most people can manage those commas pretty well. It gets tricky when you start using them in dialogue.

Simple dialogue doesn’t seem to trouble most people. Something like: “I want to go to the grocery store,” said Mom. That’s pretty normal.

But what if your dialogue is more obtuse and complicated? I’ve had clients do any of the following:

“I don’t know,” He said, “can you tell me the answer?”

“Please don’t go,” he scratched his lip.

“Whatever,” she asked… “do you mean?”

And much, much worse. I’ll give you a minute to fix the mistakes in the above sentences and see how you do. I’ll wait.

Done? Okay, let’s check our work. The first sentence should read:

“I don’t know,” he said. “Can you tell me the answer?”

If you are using a comma before the dialogue tag, you don’t capitalize “he.” You do put a period after “said.” And you cap the next bit of dialogue.

“Please don’t go.” He scratched his lip.


“Please, don’t go.” He scratched his lip.

I think the comma after “please” is optional, depending on the inflection you want. The first way, without the comma, is more urgent. The second way is more pleading.

The most important part of the fix is to put a period after “go.” Why? Because the comma between what is said and the dialogue tag is meant to allow for the tag to indicate who and how it is being said. But we have an action following this dialogue that is completely a separate thing from what is being said. Therefore, you put a period. “He scratched his lip” is not a dialogue tag. It is an action unto itself.

People have been known to get into screaming matches over this kind of thing. Please don’t do that. But do please remember that a dialogue tag has to do with the statement or question said. Therefore, the dialogue tag must be words like:






A frequent mistake of beginning writers, and something that will scream to an editor that you are a beginner, is using words that cannot possibly describe how something is being said as if they are dialogue tags.

For example, “I have to kill you now,” he held up his gun. Holding up the gun is an action, but it does not describe how the words are spoken. I don’t even like things like “he threatened” in this case. Mostly because the words are already threatening, so it’s redundant to say that.

Often, writers will have a character laugh their line. Have you ever tried laughing words? It can’t be done. Yes, you can laugh while you’re speaking, but you’re still speaking. The laughter is separate from the words. I’ve seen dialogue where a character is snorting his lines, sneezing them, hiccuping them. None of these is speech.

The easiest way to fix this is to make the dialogue and the action two separate sentences: “I have to kill you now.” He held up the gun.

Our last test sample was this: “Whatever,” she asked… “do you mean?”

This isn’t wrong, per se, but it is more complicated than necessary. It would flow more smoothly like this:

“Whatever do you mean?” she asked.

Whenever possible, simple is better. The main goal in writing dialogue is for the tags to disappear from consciousness. The less obtrusive they are, they better.

However, perhaps the author is trying to convey a pause, a hesitation on the speaker’s part. Then this would work:

“Whatever. . .” She paused. “Whatever do you mean?”

(Side note: Ellipses are typed with spaces between the periods. Just FYI.)

This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of comma usage. There are whole books on this topic. My favorite book with the clearest examples of correct usage is Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. It’s a classic.

If you can accomplish correct usage in your punctuation, your copyeditor will love you.


Posted by on February 20, 2013 in editors, Grammar, publishing, Revising, writing craft


Plot Master Class

Let me introduce to you a brilliant woman in the publishing world. Her name is Cheryl Klein, and she is a senior editor with Arthur A. Levine books, and division of Scholastic and the folks who brought us the American editions of Harry Potter.

Cheryl is, as I said, a brilliant woman. She has become known for her smart treatment of plot in a Plot Master Class in which she has authors create a Book Map of their novel. This book map requires a writer to basically put a magnifying glass to your manuscript and focus on each scene as it stands on its own. She has successfully used this technique with the authors publishing with Arthur A. Levine, and she is happy to teach it to everyone.

SCBWI of Utah/southern Idaho is bringing Cheryl Klein to Salt Lake City on November 17 to lead her original and life changing Plot Master Class. Registration will go on our web site in a couple of weeks. You don’t have to be an SCBWI member to attend, nor do you have to write for kids/teens. This method works for every single novel and every single writer.

I hope you will attend. It is an eye opening process that will make you book strong and sturdy. I’ll be posting more about it, so don’t worry–I won’t let you forget. You won’t want to miss it.

Oh yeah, that’s me and Cheryl in the photo below, when she came to Boise a couple of years ago to speak at our conference. She’s so amazing, I keep having her back. Few people are able to teach the things she has learned in one of the biggest publishers the way she can.