The Legacy of the (Self-)Published Word

Today author Diane Rinella is with us to talk about the evolution of the written word, and how to honor one’s inner creativity by expressing it. Self publishing is a route to making that happen, provided one takes the proper steps. This is a good tutorial for people considering the SP path, and a reminder of what must be done to end up with a strong novel an author can be proud of.

* ~ * ~ *

Storytelling is more than a way to share fantasies—it is an avenue for self-expression, a means by which to convey thoughts and have them absorbed by numerous strangers and possibly influence their beliefs.

For centuries the printing press was critical in spreading the news of uprisings and advancements, but the cost of doing so was prohibitive to most individuals. Today anyone can craft their words of hope, peace, controversy, and revolution, and then upload a file without cost. In what seems like but a beat of our hearts, that message is in the hands of the masses. If you then file your work with the Library of Congress, the words are now theoretically eternal.

Doesn’t that sound romantic? It can be. To some, self-publishing is an enchanting dance partner. However, there are many potential authors who have created lovely stores that they fear sharing. Self-doubt is a vicious beast, and in order to be an author, be it traditional of self-published, you have to possess a thick skin.

Criticism is inevitable, but self-doubt is conquerable.

So how do you get through the daunting task of creating a polished, self-published book and doing it with confidence both in your writing and in the physical product?

1. Don’t let the process discourage you. Many would-be authors quit after writing a few chapters because they feel their prose is horrible. These are exactly the people who should keep writing! When you can recognize that something needs improvement, it shows that you will only release your best work. This should build your confidence, not diminish it.

Read about the craft of writing, and then take it a step further by applying the lessons to books that have affected you. Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson helped me to understand how in The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton’s style immersed me in Ponyboy’s head. Once you start connecting the dots between lesson and result, writing becomes easier.

 2. Polish the heck out of that thing! Don’t concern yourself with the number of drafts you should write. Focus on going through as many drafts as you need to strengthen your work. Seek out critique partners to assist you. Critique partners are fellow writers who help you analyze your story, writing style, and voice. They can be found in in-person and on-line groups, like The Critique Circle.

Critique groups intimidated me until I realized I was just in with the wrong crowd. I then co-founded Authors Helping Authors, a Facebook group where authors help each other through various parts of the writing process including critiques, beta reading, formatting, and promotion. Becoming a part of the right social community helped make the process fun again.

 3. Next, edit for typos and grammar issues. Go through that baby with a fine-toothed comb!

One of my favorite sites is Grammar Girl. Taking a few minutes each day to read one of Mignon Fogarty’s short articles will crank up your grammar knowledge in no time! To find simple errors, my favorite trick is to use the Find feature in Word to seek commonly misused words, like “than” versus “then.” I then verify the usage. My self-editing cheat sheet can be found HERE.

4. Now that you have polished, buffed, and shined, you should be confident enough for a very big step—having people “beta read” your book. A beta reader looks for holes in your story along with boring sections, rambling, and stuff that plain does not make sense. Thus, you never want a beta reader to be someone whom you know will always tell you the book is brilliant. You actually want beta readers to point out problems because it is better to hear issues in beta than in a review.

Note that this step has a different purpose than working with a critique partner. A beta reader evaluates the reading experience while a critique partner helps you fix the problem. Book bloggers and avid readers in your genre make excellent beta readers.

 5. Analyze the suggested improvements. You don’t need to make them all, but if two out of three readers say the same thing, you really should listen.

 6. Repeat steps 3-5 until you feel the story is ready. Then send it out for professional proof reading to catch the typos you missed. If you can’t afford a professional, see if your local college will put you in touch with English majors. They love doing this kind of work and will do it inexpensively. However, hire more than one, because a student does not have the experience of a professional. Never release a book that has not been proofed by people who understand the proper use of grammar, and never do it all yourself. No matter what route you go, try before you by. Send the proofreader a small test document that you know contains errors and see how much they catch.

 7. People do judge books by their blurbs and covers. Not only must a blurb be concise and absolutely error free, it must also make the reader NEED to read the book! Blurb writing is an art form must be taken seeriously. Amy Wilkins from Harlequin has wonderful advice for writing a top-notch blurb.

There are many fantastic cover artists available at reasonable rates. However, don’t just tell someone to come up with a cover based off of your blurb. Do some investigating and find samples or stock art that convey the proper emotions. A cover designer will not read your story. Regardless of who does your cover, find the right person, because a cheap cover gets noticed in the wrong way.

 8. Once you feel that all of your hard work has paid off and you have produced your very best art, face the world with confidence. Know that bad reviews are inevitable, but so are great ones! You can’t control another person’s thoughts regarding your work, only your own, so know that you are amazing and have done something so few dare.

Do you have something that you feel others need to hear? Self-publishing just might be the way. So craft your message with passion, buff and polish it until it shines, then go ahead and upload that document. Hit that publish button and send your masterpiece into the world. Who knows, you might just create a legacy that will influence lives for generations to come.

indexEnjoying San Francisco as a backdrop, the ghosts in Diane’s 150-year old Victorian home augment the chorus in her head. With insomnia as their catalyst, these voices have become multifarious characters that haunt her well into the sun’s crowning hours, refusing to let go until they have manipulated her into succumbing to their whims. Her experiences as an actress, business owner, artisan cake designer, software project manager, Internet radio disc jockey, vintage rock n’ roll journalist/fan girl, and lover of dark and quirky personalities influence her idiosyncratic writing.

Loves_Forbidden_Flo_Cover_for_KindleDiane’s controversial romance novels Love’s Forbidden Flower and Time’s Forbidden Flower are available on Amazon and Smashwords. She is currently polishing the contemporary romance, Scary Modsters… and Creepy Freaks. You can visit Diane at www.dianerinellaauthor.com.

About ANGELA ACKERMAN

Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
This entry was posted in Guest Post, Publishing and Self Publishing, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to The Legacy of the (Self-)Published Word

  1. Frank Hill says:

    Do you have recommendations for how to identify reputable self-publishing companies from others?

    • Self publishing is something you can do on your own without a publishing company, and this is what I always recommend. Finding a strong editor and a strong cover artist are key. Formatting you can learn, or get someone to do for your for around $100. Many “self publishing” services that offer to take care of things will charge huge amounts, or worse, a royalty percentage. Stay away from these. There are a lot of scams out there that promise to take care of you but are just looking to part you from your money.

      If you do choose a service, make sure it is legitimate. Searching them up on sites like Writers Beware & Predators and Editors is highly recommended. Good luck!

    • Frank, I agree with what Angela said. You can save a ton of money by truly doing it yourself. if you are looking for a place to get printed books, I suggest CreateSpace. All it cost is the price of the book plus shipping. Very reasonable.

  2. Pingback: The Legacy of the (Self-)Published Word - Diane Rinella, Author

  3. Guidance here is fantastic, especially the point about finding the right group. I’ve had some terrible group experiences over the past years Presently, I am searching for my own “writers’ den” —
    writers are solitary creatures but we all know a lone wolf cannot survive without a pack. (And like wolves, finding and being embraced by the right pack is SO important).

    By the way the link for authors helping others did not work for me.

  4. Julie Musil says:

    Such wise advice! This journey is exciting, scary, and perplexing, but it’s totally worth the ride.

  5. Robyn LaRue says:

    I can’t recommend honest critique partners enough. I’ve been so blessed with mine. I also love you you gave links and follow-ups. I’ll be checking them all. Thank you!

  6. Rosi says:

    Excellent post with great advice. This is something we all need to consider, but it has to be done right, and clearly, Diane has done her homework. Thanks for posting this.

  7. Curtis says:

    Diane,
    Nice article, but you haven’t quite succeeded in following our own advice in composing it (Step 3); e.g., in Step 5, you wrote: ” . . . but if two out three readers . . . ” I found at least one other error. Sad irony.

    Beyond that, you fail to address a problem some writers have. Right up there at Step 1, you have,
    “1. Don’t let the process discourage you. Many would-be authors quit after writing a few chapters because they feel their prose is horrible. These are exactly the people who should keep writing!”

    I have a friend who has the _opposite_ problem; he thinks every word he writes is _perfect._ He has a few very bad grammar habits, doesn’t take suggestions or criticism well, and refuses to join a critique group, yet he’s shopping for an agent for two deeply-flawed books.

    Is there anything that can be done for such a person? I’m about at the point of letting him just go hit the wall on his own.

    • Curtis, this is why critique partners and editors are so important, as Diane has stated. 🙂 Our eyes miss our own mistakes–a malady common to all writers, lol. I read this as well and didn’t catch that error, so thanks for pointing it out. 🙂

    • Thank you, Curtis. Are you referring to the wit of, “Try before you by.”? 🙂

      I get your point. It’s funny that in many, but certainly not all, cases the more stubborn a person is, the more frightened they are as well.

      I used to be told that I was a lazy writer. People would show me the work of others as examples of how to improve. I could not help but think that they wanted me to be like someone else or even themselves. Then, someone pointed to an example of strength within my own work. It became clear that I needed to write more like myself, not less. As a result, I rewrote my entire debut novel, and people went on to praise my prose. Thus, my point is that maybe your friend needs to see the capability within himself. Does that make sense? Else maybe he needs someone to approach it differently. Also, sometimes we just plain need to fall on our faces.

    • Dav says:

      A couple of rules for not pissing people off when giving them feedback:

      1) Don’t be in competition, don’t do things for catharsis.

      The best question to ask yourself: If I’m not there to help, why am I here?

      Accept your superiority, Curtis, don’t try to prove it. Let him think you’re an idiot. Don’t worry about being right, don’t worry about him respecting you. Don’t try to say things that will make YOU feel better later. Say how the book made you react in a way that he’ll listen. You’re there to help him. If he rejects that help, it’s his own business, and not your problem.

      2) Make it all about you.

      Don’t tell the author what he’s done or what he should do. That’s his job. Tell him how you reacted; that’s what he can’t do.

      “I have a hard time investing emotions into a story that I’m not sure will pay off, and I have burned too many times by stories with typos to trust a book with technical mistakes to not have large-scale ones.”

      3) The critic is there to give the author what he needs. With the exception of professional editors/reviewers (the latter being not about the author at all). In return, the author needs to not be a prick.

      Obviously, the author in question has defied his side of the obligation. But the critic has two options here, to keep trying to help or to stop. If you really do want to help him, give him what he needs. If all he wants at this time is compliments, then go for it. Why not? It’s no skin off your nose, and, eventually he’ll either gain the confidence to listen better, or he’ll write enough to “practice it off,” or he’ll eventually quit.

      It’s not going to be the end of his career to submit bad books. The worst that can happen is he’ll be demoralized.

      (With the exception, ironically enough, if he chooses to self-publish them.)

      If you think the stories have potential, or he has talents, or you just plain care about him, then consider actions that will convince him, not bully him, into reflecting on his works. If you DON’T feel this way about him, then it’s probably just an issue of being right. If that’s the case, you should back down.

      Remember, for every flaw, there is a quality. Typos and grammar issues indicate an organic, uncensored flow of thought. By telling him that, saying, “You have a flare for throwing caution to the wind and just writing,” then explaining why that might be dangerous, “I want to be convinced early on that risk-taking isn’t going to dump me off randomly and unsatisfactory. Consider what you can do make the readers trust you.”

      And lastly, what advice a person doesn’t take immediately isn’t necessarily advice he’ll NEVER take. Most people need time to digest. They react one way, and then later make the suggested changes.

  8. Trish Loye Elliott says:

    Thanks for the post, Diane. I’ve been considering Self-Pubbing and this is a good article to start with.

  9. J.M. Bray says:

    Hi Diane,

    Fantastic post with top notch tips…and in a great order to boot! 🙂 The reason I’m commenting is that steps 1-6 are what EVERY writer should do before sending their work out. So many folks get focused on the query letter or synopsis when the issue is the MS isn’t polished to a blinding gleam.

    Well done, Diane!
    JM

  10. Lori Schafer says:

    I really liked what you said about finding the right critique group. I think that happens to a lot of writers – one bad experience turns them off the concept entirely. Authors Helping Authors looks great!

    • Thanks, Lori. I have had a hard time with that myself. It’s hard to find the right people who respect your genre, writing style, and subject matter. There can be a fine line between tweaking your work because it can improve and doing so because the person “helping” you is biased,and it can be hard to tell the difference. Finding the right people is pure gold though!

      I hope to see you in AHA.

  11. Thanks for your visit today Diane! I love posts that map out the process and the links seem to be a hit! To those who haven’t SP the whole process seems daunting, but those of us who have done it know it isn’t the big bad monster that it seems if we just go step by step and create the strongest product we can before hitting publish!

    Angela

    • Thank YOU, Angela! Yes, it is daunting, but it is so worth it to hold your book in your hands and know that you did it both the right way and your way! That does not always happen with traditional publishing.

  12. Thank you, Angela and Becca, for this wonderful opportunity. I appreciate your time and assistance.

    Happy writing, all!

    • Thanks for sharing, Diane, and for including so many helpful links. It’s funny, the polar viewpoints with self-publishing; you’ve got the writers whose uncertainty is overwhelming nearly to the point of paralysis, and the other group of writers who are so excited about the opportunity that they jump the gun way too early. Your tips sound like ones that can help people in both camps :).

  13. Dawn Malone says:

    Such timely advice – thank you, Diane, for sharing your expertise and to WHW for sharing this interview! I’ve copied that link on blurb writing to reread when I’m working on cover copy. Thanks so much for yet another information-packed post. Love this site!

    • Thanks, Dawn. If you think of anything to add to that list, please let me know. I am always open to additions. I’m sure just before I send my latest novel off for finally edits, I’ll come across a few myself!

  14. Thanks for adding great tools to my writer box!!

  15. Carol Balawyder says:

    Hi-

    I always enjoy reading your posts. You might want to have a look at a post where I wrote about how I use your books:

    http://carolbalawyder.com/2013/12/27/protagonist-or-antagonist-who-to-introduce-first/

    These are great books.

    • Hi Carol! I did see this post before, and shared it online as well because I really enjoyed seeing how you used our books to flesh out your character, and also that you’d read KM’s book as well, because in my mind that is a blueprint for writing a compelling novel–love SYN! I had thought I’d commented too but I just checked and saw I hadn’t, so remedied that. Thank you again for telling people about your experience!

      Angela

  16. Some great advice and key elements to consider here! Thanks!

  17. Hi Diane! Thanks for posting this. I am really excited about your control+find self-editing checklist– what a great idea!

    Thanks, Christine

  18. Mart Ramirez says:

    Great advice! Thank you!
    Love #8 and your closing. Thank you so much for the editing and cover links.

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