Monday, November 17, 2014

Tips to Better Self Editing

My guest this week is Dori Harrell, a former award-winning journalist with more than a thousand articles published in newspapers and magazines nationwide. She now freelance writes and edits and enjoys working with indie authors. She also edits for Gemma Halliday Publishing, Out West Press and a large print-on-demand company. And like many authors, she tends to agonize when revising her own writing. But she's stumbled on a few things in her career that have helped ease her revision anxieties. I’m delighted to have her visit Book Blather this week. Welcome, Dori!

Tips to Better Self-Editing

“I am in revision purgatory and really need a fresh pair of eyes.”
I recently received this statement in an e-mail from indie author Anne Carrole, writer of romances with western settings.
If your words are swimming before your eyes when you revise, it’s time to contact an editor. If you’re confident that there’s nothing anyone can do to improve your book, it’s time to contact an editor. If you’ve revised multiple times and doubts about your abilities are setting in, it’s time to contact an editor.
But if you’ve just finished your first draft and are writing the words “The End,” you might want to hold off a bit. Do spend some time on revisions before sending your baby off to its editor.
As owner of Breakout Editing, I now edit full time after an award-winning nonfiction writing career. I was fortunate enough to receive a formal writing and editing education at the school of journalism at the University of Washington. (Journalists, by the way, receive training in fiction writing techniques also.)
One of the first things pounded into me as a writer was: no author should be the final editor of her own writing. With more than a thousand articles in print, both as a journalist and freelance writer, I’ve never been published without my stories undergoing editing—my own and another pair of eyes or two. Currently, I’m writing my first novel. I’ve already hired a story-line editor and have made contact with a copyeditor. I practice what I preach—an editor is essential to writing success. And I’m sure Marilee thoroughly edited this blog post before she published it. I’m counting on it, in fact.
But before your manuscript proceeds to its next pair of eyes, there are steps you can take to improve your self-editing techniques. From my perspective as both writer and editor, I thought I’d offer my top-three suggestions. They won’t necessarily keep you out of revision purgatory, but they may ease your suffering once you’re there.
1.     After typing “The End,” give your manuscript a rest. I mean, completely set it aside and don’t look at it again. For novel-length, I’m not talking about a day or two, like with an article. I’m talking at least two weeks. Novellas, at least one week. I know you’ve heard it before, but it’s such a vital point in producing a top-quality story that I’m making this my number one point. I know, I know. You have a self-imposed publishing deadline. My recommendation is to work that rest period into your deadline. Why is this resting period so vital? Because when you revise after a resting period, inconsistencies, typos, and story-line deficiencies will jump out at you. Try it just once, and you’ll see what I mean. You’ll be a Dori convert in this. (And as an editor, I always give a manuscript a rest before the final look-over, for the same reasons.)
2.     Invest in a style guide. In publishing, the standard today for most fiction and nonfiction is the Chicago Manual of Style. I am in no way recommending you try to learn or read the entire one-thousand-plus page tome. But familiarize yourself with the comma section, or with terms that are particularly pertinent to your writing style (say, parallel structure). And you don’t even have to buy the hard copy. CMoS offers an online subscription with a great search field. I use it nonstop in editing and writing. Barring that, pick out one or two (no need to get excessive here) grammar websites that offer helpful tips you can easily refer to, such as The site offers useful examples that will aid any writer. And one of my favorites—Robin Simmons’s Grammar Bytes provides all kinds of simple explanations from verb-subject agreement to adverb clauses. Here’s a link to her terms page: I’m not suggesting you turn into a grammar buff. I’m merely saying that familiarizing yourself with certain technical skills that work with your writing style will enhance your self-editing abilities, which will improve your story. And when you have a question about style, you’ll have an answer at your fingertips.
3.     While reading through your manuscript, if something you’ve written leaves you with a feeling of unease or trepidation, rework that section until you’re comfortable with it. I’m referring to a scene or paragraph that’s unsettled you to the point that it follows you to bed and to your doctor and to conversations with your friends—and not in a positive way. Do not hesitate to revise based on a persistent, strong negative feeling.
And could I go on and on with tips about spell checking and pinpointing problem areas (for me, it’s typing “you” for “your”)? You bet—and many other editors and writers have done so. But as an author and editor, I find these three steps immensely helpful when editing my own writing. And I’d love to hear your top-three suggestions!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Can Self Published Authors Make Money?

My guest this week is Indie author, Liz Schulte. There's a great deal of hype around the issue of self publishing. Much of it is opinion, based on emotion, not fact. Liz's straight forward approach to the business of self publishing deals with information backed up with indisputable facts. She not only shares her personal financial records, but also offers some excellent advice for would-be writers. If you are considering becoming an indie author, I believe you will find her post both fascinating and helpful. Welcome to Book Blather, Liz. 

Hello. My name is Liz Schulte and I am a self-published author of mystery and paranormal romance.  I have been publishing for around three years and this past year (in June) I became a full-time writer.

I find when I tell people that they tend to think it is because I am married and have another means of support, but that isn’t true. I am single, I have mortgage, and I have two dogs. I am living on my writing income 100%.

Marilee asked me to share with you guys my story about my journey to being a full-time writer. I have been thinking a lot about this, and I think the best way is to first explain a few misconceptions I had and I see other new writers coming into this with, and then I will hit you with my numbers for all three years.

1.    So-and-so author did it this way, so it will work exactly the same for me. False. It is important to remember that everyone’s story in self-publishing or any form of publishing is different. What works for one person may not work for others. It is always good to research and know what others are doing, but if it doesn’t impact your sales, try something different. Find your market.

2.    One book will make me rich. False. Very few people release one book and skyrocket to fame and glory. Very few writers will ever skyrocket to fame and glory. Yes, some do it, but most don’t. Look at any artist industry: music, acting, art, etc. There are three types of people: the elite standouts, people who make a living, and the rest (the majority) who work day jobs. It is the reality of the industry. Making your place in this industry is hard work. It isn’t a 9-5 job. I work all day and most nights every single day of the week. All other aspects of my life have suffered in order for me to get here. It takes dedication and determination beyond anything your non-writer (muggles) friends and family will think is reasonable.

3.    I am an excellent writer and I don’t need to hone my craft. (This one is going to hurt.) False. It is great to have confidence, but no one’s first book is ever their best—nor should it be. Everyone needs an editor, and everyone should continue to study and grow as a writer. If you are not willing to do those two things, you probably aren’t going to last very long.

Now for the numbers.
**Note: All numbers are before taxes, and I always have travel, conference, and professional membership expenses, but I do not consider them a must-have for publication so I am not including them here.

2011: 2 Books published - Earnings- $462.67; Expenses (advertising and production) - $2591.13 NET LOSS

2012: 3 Books published and one short story (total of 5 books and a short story for sale) - $61,102; Expenses (advertising and production) - $8916.39

2013 (so far): 4 Books published (total of 9 books and a short story for sale) -  $100,987.24; Expenses (advertising and production) - $9111.56

These numbers probably lead you to a few questions. What are “production costs”? How do I advertise? And what changed between year one and year two?
1.    Production costs. Included in this are cover, editing, and formatting. A breakdown of my expenses in this category looks something like this: copy editor - $2.50 per page (250 words per page), proofreader - $1.00-1.25 per page (250 words per page), cover design (all formats) - $50-150, and formatting (all formats) - $70-100. These are the essential things you have to do to publish a book.

2.    Advertising. The truth to this is that I try everything at least once. Some work for me and some don’t. I have had the best success with Pixel of Ink (free), Bookbub (paid), and Ereader News Today (free and paid). Blog tours are great for growing a fan base and improving your SEO, but I have never noticed a huge jump in sales from them.
3.    The majority of the money I made in year two was made toward the end of the year. The factor that changed was that I published the third book in a series and made the first book free then ran ads with the three places mentioned above. It gave my books and series the boost they needed to get noticed. I don’t recommend using free books or having sales when you only have one or two books out. It is best to wait until you have multiple books so you get more bang for your buck.

4.    More than anything—and I cannot stress this enough—write more books. Stop stalking your sales, returns, ranking, and reviews and write.

This has been my experience with self-publishing. I am happy to talk to anyone who has questions. You can reach me at:
Twitter: @LizSchulte

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Tale of Two Amys

Born and bred in Mississippi, romance author Amy Lillard, is a transplanted Southern Belle who now lives in Oklahoma. She also writes under the pen name, Amie Louellen. Amie Louellen has published eight romances, six of which are self-published. Amy Lillard has five books to her publishing credit, one of which is an independent release
Amy is a member of RWA, ACFW, and is an award-winning author. You can reach her at or visit her on the web: * FACEBOOK * TWITTER *

Trendsetter Amy

I have always been something of a…trendsetter. (Now then, doesn’t that sound better than rebel?) I grew up in the age of punk rock and raiding your daddy’s closet for neckties, oversized shirts, and loose belts. When I was sixteen, I pierced my ears to have six earrings on the left and three on the right. That doesn’t seem crazy by today’s standards, but in 1983, NO ONE did such wild and crazy things and surely not in small town Mississippi.

So it’s no wonder that my…adventuresome spirit has carried over into my writing. Back before it was cool to do such things, I had a hero with a tattoo, one with red hair, and a heroine with so many freckles there was no way to count them all.

Today, it seems there’s no shock value. Books are available that make Fifty Shades look Victorian. Erotica, erotic romance, GBLT, and a veritable alphabet soup of F/F/F/M/F/M until I’m not sure what body part belongs to what letter.
But that’s the beauty of self-publishing. It allows for an away-form-the-norm expression that has been controlled by the publishing industry for years. (Quick note: I have nothing against the traditional publishing industry. Nor do I read that far out of my chosen genre. I’m merely stating that the world has to date tried to ‘protect’ us from ourselves, and I’m glad such expression is available to those who want it.)
Yet how far are we willing to push that envelope before it starts pushing back? I don’t know, but even as a self-proclaimed trendsetter, it’s not a direction I’m comfortable going, this uber-sexy trend that a great deal of romance seems to be headed toward.

My latest self-published releases are two versions of the same story: one sexy and the other inspirational. Take Me Back to Texas is the inspy title and Welcome Home, Bethie McGee is the sexy one. But as far as sexy goes, it is *tame*. Standard stuff, filled with emotional touches and sweet kisses. They also attend church in the sexy version. After all, this is small town Texas. But I did a little something different in the inspirational version as well. They drink and dance. Gasp, right? And share a sexy kiss. Double gasp. But I think it’s time for Christian fiction that isn’t so sterilized and sexy fiction that is a little more like real life. At least for most of us. I guess you could say that my goal is to swing romance back a little closer to the right.
And maybe that makes me a rebel with a different cause. No wait…trendsetter. Yep. I definitely like that better.

Here’s a little more about Take Me Back to Texas and Welcome Home, Bethie McGee.
Elizabeth McGee never thought she’d set foot in Loveless, Texas, again. But after the reading of her father’s will, Elizabeth learns she’s inherited her grandmother’s house and all of the personal contents. If that wasn’t enough to knock her off her feet, she soon discovers that JD Carmichael, her lost love from high school, is the contractor who has been hired to finish renovating the house.
JD once had the world by the tail. But after a premature end to what would have been a promising career in professional football, JD wants nothing more than to raise his daughter and enjoy the life he has now. And he surely never thought he’d ever see Bethie Grace again.
Now he’s faced with her every day as they work side by side restoring and cleaning the old house in order to ready it to sell. But the rambling old Victorian isn’t the only thing rattling with memories. Elizabeth finds that she can’t concentrate with JD around. And JD has trouble forgetting the heady effects of her kiss, even if it’s been fifteen years since he last held her in his arms.
Past hurts and betrayals stand in their way. That and JD’s vow never to get married again. But as much as he tries to keep the two halves of his life separate, he finds himself breaking all his rules for Bethie Grace McGee.
Elizabeth has plans for her future. She’s waiting for a loan to buy her very own French bistro on the edge of Hollywood. But JD’s kiss makes her second guess her decisions and think about staying in Texas. Forever.
Check out all of Amy’s books: