The Ericksons

Category Archives: Self-Publishing


It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. Today I’m going to explore self-publishing with print-on-demand, as I answer the #IWSG question for September –

What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?

When I first decided to write my book, Facing Cancer as a Friend, I felt as though I was looking at a timer, counting down the amount of time I had to get a platform set up and some words on the page. It was a midlife realignment of my goals. I had always wanted to be a writer, but I let life get in the way and stopped writing for a long time.

print-on-demand

Print-on-Demand Services changed all that

Self-publishing prior to print-on-demand was often called vanity publishing, and with good reason. Prior to this evolution in the publishing industry, writers would pay publishers to print a certain number of books. Most often the author was stuck with hundreds of unsold copies by the end of their lifetime.  It was an unappealing notion. Print-on-demand potentially meant that the only thing you risked by self-publishing with them, was your time and your reputation. And by 2015 when I began writing again, print-on-demand was in full swing, thanks in great part to Amazon.com and its affiliated companies such as Createspace.

There are drawbacks

Print-on-Demand has made self-publishing far more approachable to writers across the spectrum of the business. There are also some drawbacks to self-publishing, even with the benefit of print-on-demand and e-book publishing. This is especially true for new writers.

Because

  • Self-publishers who do everything themselves, often lack the professional, experienced support of editors. It’s all too common to find books that are “obviously self-published.” A multitude of mistakes and formatting errors that never would have made it past an experienced editor’s eyes fill some of these books from start to finish. It’s understandable. New self-published authors have to learn the skills of an entire team of people who would normally prepare a book for publication. My first book was no different. That’s why this year I am revising it completely to fix errors I didn’t realize I had made.

 

  • Self-publishers have to market their book on their own. Most writers aren’t born marketers. They are writers. With the self-publishing model, writers must find time to write, edit, publish, and market their book—and then do it again. Part of marketing is having a platform. This often includes blogging and maintaining a website and a social media presence, along with your other jobs. It’s not the most efficient way to do things.

 

  • Self-published writers are the ugly stepsister of the writing business. People often look down of them because of a few bad apples that have lowered the bar, in terms of quality.

But there’s good news

Even professional writers such as Stephen King have dipped their toe into the self-publishing world. You get a far greater percentage of the royalties, and once you are established in the business with a solid platform and a good reputation, online bookstores like Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble make marketing and selling your print-on-demand and e-books far easier.

I’m also encouraged whenever I find a self-published author who is doing it right. They are improving the quality of the print-on-demand and e-book markets. It can be incredibly difficult to break into the traditional publishing model. It’s fun to see writers also become entrepreneurs. Often they are using professional services for editing and cover creation, creating jobs and transforming the industry.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.

The Ericksons


beta readers

Most authors use beta readers to help them prepare their book for publication. It’s extra work and takes more time, but this is a step you won’t want to skip if you want your book to be as good as possible. How do you get beta readers? What do they do for you?

Beta readers go by several different names

  • Beta readers
  • Street Team
  • Advance Readers
  • Launch Team
  • Book Crew
  • Review Crew

I call my beta readers “Advance Readers,” because they read my book in advance of it being in its final form (more about that later).

What do Beta Readers Do?

Authors not only use a variety of names for their beta readers, but they utilize their beta readers in several different ways, depending on what they need most.

Do you :

  • Need feedback to help you decide what to cut and what to keep?
  • Welcome proofreading from those who excel at spotting typos?
  • Have specific questions you need to have answered?

I personally have my team of Advance Readers read an early version of my book. I ask for feedback, both specific and general and make a lot of changes based on their responses. Then, once the book is ready to publish, I send my beta readers a final copy of the book so they can see the finished product. At that time, I ask them to post a review on Amazon and Goodreads.

There are some drawbacks to my method

The chances of my beta readers reading the book a second time (when they get the final copy) are slim, so I risk getting a review based on a less-than-the-best version. To minimize this, try to have your book in fairly good shape before you send the first copy to your beta readers. I always think mine is looking pretty good and then discover a multitude of problems after I’ve sent copies to my beta readers.

The thing I gain from this method is the insight of my readers. They often see things I missed, so I can fix those issues before the book goes to print.

There are 4 basic methods that a beta reader can use to give you feedback

  1. Call it as they see it

This method works well with Microsoft Word’s Track Changes feature as well as the equivalent in Google Docs. Your reader can make any notes they want as they read. You will get lots of detailed observations and proofreading notes with this method.

  1. Chapter by Chapter

With this method, your reader will make some observations at the end of each chapter. This is especially helpful when you have specific questions such as whether “this chapter” even belongs in the book. One of the great things about it is that it doesn’t feel overwhelming to your beta reader, yet they will be giving you useful feedback.

  1. The Big Picture

This is my personal least favorite, but it’s still better than nothing. With this method, many things bet forgotten or left out of the feedback. This is especially good if you are confident in your editor and just want to know if there are any glaring problems. It is also perfect when you are looking more for a review than for feedback. We will talk more about that in a future post on launching your book.

  1. You can answer specific questions

Often writers have certain things they want to know. Should this chapter be cut? Should I use this ending, instead? Etc. These are often very professional, seasoned writers who are checking out a few nagging issues. When you use this method, put together the questions and let them know that these are the concerns you need them to consider. Some writers prefer to ask the questions after the reader has finished the book in order to get big picture answers. This is often thought to better mimic the actual reading experience. How you approach it will depend on what you need most.

A note about working with family members

It’s fine to have family members be part of your beta reader team. Be aware of how honest they are being with you, though. Sometimes when we are close to someone, they hesitate to give us the brutal honesty we need at this point on the process. If they understand that their honesty is crucial, you will probably be fine.  This is like my favorite example of letting someone walk around with spinach in their teeth. You aren’t being nice if you don’t say anything.

Create a tracking sheet

This will help you keep all of your beta readers on track. Some things to record on this tracking sheet are:

  • Who did you send a copy to?
  • Have you sent a reminder email after 2 weeks?
  • Have you received their feedback, yet?

I also like to create a folder in my email in which to keep any correspondence with my beta readers. If someone doesn’t follow through, you will want to remember if you use them as a beta reader on another book that you might not be able to count on getting a response from them. Some writers choose to draw a line in the sand after 1 or 2 experiences like this. I tend to be a bit more lenient. Sometimes, life happens.

I love my Advance Readers! They make such a difference in the quality of my books. Do you use beta readers? Have you ever been a beta reader? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.


Formatting your Ebook

There are several things to keep in mind as you approach formatting your ebook. An ebook isn’t just a paperback that you can read on your e-reader. It has distinct properties that make it not only different but in some cases, better than a print book. After all, a paperback can’t transport you to a linked website. You also can’t change the font style and size nor have a linked table of contents in a paperback. These unique aspects of an ebook bring with them some, “side effects” if you don’t format your ebook properly.

For example, because the reader can change the font style and size, your book won’t look the same on the reader’s device as it does in the paperback. Bullets and lists could end up out of whack. Page numbers are irrelevant. So is anything else you have in your headers and footers.

Take Out

To start out on the right foot, when formatting your ebook, begin with a “stripped” copy of your print book. Hopefully, you have formatted your print book properly from the start, using the preset “Styles” from the “Home” tab in Microsoft Word. It will be very important when it’s time to create your Table of Contents. Make sure you remove:

  • Unique page margins
  • Hyphenation when words are cut in half from one line to the next
  • Bullets and numbered lists
  • Headers and footers, including page numbers
  • Page numbers from your Table of Contents
  • Hyperlinks that interfere with the print book’s publishing software.
  • Blank pages that you used as placeholders in your print book.

Put In

Now that you’ve gotten that out of the way, you can add any links that will enhance your book. When formatting your ebook, include links to:

  • Your social media sites, websites, and email addresses
  • Where they can sign up for your mailing list/newsletter
  • Sites where the reader can leave a good review for your book
  • Sales pages for your other books
  • Any sites you referenced in your non-fiction book
  • If you didn’t use the “Styles” presets to format your book’s sections and chapter headings, do that now (using H1 and H2 presets).

Paragraphs

Some people don’t believe in indenting paragraphs in an ebook—especially in a non-fiction book. My personal preference is to indent a couple of spaces at the beginning of each paragraph (Using presets—not the spacebar or the tab key) as well as putting a space between each paragraph. This is all a matter of personal preference and a lot of thought. Part of the reason I used both elements is that I include both information as well as narrative elements in my book.

Formatting Your Ebook with a Clickable Table of Contents

Now it’s time to tackle the Table of Contents. In case you forgot to delete any page numbers that were in your print copy’s Table of Contents, do that now.

  1. Click on the “Insert” tab in your Word document.
  2. Choose the item in your Table of Contents and highlight what you would like to hyperlink.
  3. In the toolbar above, in the “Links” section, you will see an icon of a globe with 3 tiny chain links, labeled “Hyperlink.” Click that.
  4. Now, you can choose to link the highlighted item in your document to an existing file or webpage, a place in the document, an email address, or you can create a new document. You are going to opt for the second choice and link to a place in the document.
  5. So long as you have formatted your section and chapter headings with H1 and H2 labels, you should see a list containing the items in your Table of Contents. Look for the item you are linking and click on it.
  6. You will see the text in the box at the top of the list. This is what will be displayed in the Table of Contents.
  7. Click OK.

Work your way through the Table of Contents until everything is linked the way you would like it to be. After the first hyperlinked item, you’ve basically set everything up and will only need to repeat steps 2, 5, 6, and 7 for each subsequent table of contents item you will be linking to.

Footnotes and Citations

You can use this same method to hyperlink anything else in the book such as footnotes. Although those can be done more easily by following these steps:

  1. Place the cursor wherever you would like the tiny citation/footnote number to be placed.
  2. Click Alt+Ctrl+F.
  3. A tiny number will appear where your cursor was and another corresponding number will appear at the bottom of the document. Next to that one you can type your footnote or citation. These will appear at the end of your book when it is published.

This is by no means a comprehensive guide to formatting your ebook, but it will get you going. When you are done formatting your ebook, it is a good idea to read through it on your phone and your e-reader to see if there are any issues.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.

 

 

 


Amazon Author Page

Today I will be exploring Amazon Author Central. What is it? How do you set up an Amazon Author Page? What can it do for you and your audience?

Let’s start with Amazon Author Central. What is it?

Amazon Author Central is your go-to place as an author who is selling books on the world’s largest online bookstore. There, you can find links to tools you can use as an author to write your books and sell them on Amazon. You can find the reviews people have left for your books as well as your sales statistics. I think the most interesting and useful thing on Amazon Author Central is your Amazon Author page. Here is an overview of what you and your readers can find on your Amazon Author Page.

Readers will find:

  • Your profile, including your profile picture and your website address(es). You can also include video, such as a book trailer if you choose. There is also a follow button so that your readers can get your latest posts and be notified when you publish a new book.
  • Your books and their prices. These are found at the top for quick reference.
  • Your Blog Feed. Yes! Your posts (or at least the first couple of sentences and a link to the post on your site) will automatically appear on your Amazon Author Page, within 24 hours of posting on your site. It’s a great way to connect readers to your website(s).
  • Your book details. These include the formats your book is available in, their prices, and how many stars reviewers are giving each book (on average).

Here is a screenshot of my Amazon Author Page to give you an idea of what it looks like, overall. You can also go there to see it for yourself.

Amazon Author Page

How do you set up your Amazon Author Page?

It’s actually quite simple. Amazon does a great job of walking you through the process. And, if you have any problems, they respond to email questions within 24 hours. I am going to give you a super simple overview of where things are on your Amazon Author Page dashboard, to make the process even easier.

Here is a screenshot of my Amazon Author Page dashboard. I’ve circled some things to pay extra-special attention to.

Your Amazon Author Page dashboard

Starting at the very top of the dashboard is a link to your actual page (sorry, I didn’t circle that). This is handy because your page will look different from your dashboard.

Under that is your Biography. This will show up under your profile picture on your Author Page. I’ve circled the link you can click to either edit your bio or delete it completely.

Directly under your Biography is where you can list your blog(s). This allows your feed to show up on your Amazon Author Page within 24 hours of it being posted.

To the right of your Biography, is your Amazon Author Page URL. You can share the URL with your readers by using the social sharing links or copy/pasting the link wherever you like.

Under the URL is your Profile Photo. This is what readers will see when they come to your Amazon Author Page. It will also show up directly on your book’s sales page (which incidentally includes a link to your Author Page).

Finally, In the bottom right of your dashboard is where you can upload video.

Adding Books to your Amazon Author Page

Now that your page is set up, You will want to add your book(s) to your page. Doing this is usually straightforward. Go back to your Amazon Author Central Dashboard. Not your Page dashboard. If you can’t recall how to get there, just click this link, and log in.

Next, click on the tab at the top that says “Books.” You can see in the screenshot below that “Books” is underlined in orange.

Add Books to your Amazon Author Page

Once you’ve gotten to the page where your books will be, you will see a message asking if there are books missing from your page. Click the orange button that says, “Add more books.”

Next, type the title, author name, or ISBN into the search box to automatically find the listing on Amazon.com.

It will pop up like my book did, here.

Adding books to your Amazon Author Page

When you see your correct book, click the orange button beneath it that says, “This is my book.” You will immediately see the following:

“Your book was successfully added. Please note that it may take up to 24 hours for the book to appear in your bibliography.”

Some important things to note

Once you add a book to your page, it can’t be removed without an act of Congress. So, if you aren’t sure you want your book on your page, wait to add it. This policy is in place in case someone want’s to get an old/used copy. That being said, you can make an appeal to Amazon, and if you have a good reason, they will remove it.

I hope you’ve found this informative. Amazon has fantastic tools available to authors. The Author Page is one of my favorites. Yet, many authors don’t set theirs up. It takes very little time and can lead readers to find other books you’ve written or will write in the future.

  • Do you have an Amazon Author Page? Feel free to add it in the comments (I will check my spam folder to make sure none get lost).
  • If you don’t have one set up, what’s stopped you from doing so?
  • If you aren’t an author, have you ever looked at an author’s page on Amazon.com?

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.


Putting Your Best Font Forward

In today’s post, I will be giving you a behind-the-scenes look at me putting together my next book, Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with your Cancer. Today, it’s all about making your book look good with the right formatting.

Making Your Book Look Good starts with no formatting at all

I’ve found this to be incredibly important. To help you see the transformations process that happens when you are making your book look good I have taken some screenshots of my manuscript along with some hints.

formatting: making Your Book Look Good

Putting Your Best Font Forward

With print projects, I often forget about the importance of font until it’s time to publish. Then I scramble to make it more visually appealing. Originally the paragraph font was Courier New, 12 pt. with the lines at 1.5. The chapter headings were 20 pt.

It was boring and screamed, “self-published!” So, I decided to play around with it. I recommend looking at other professionally published books in your genre to see what they are using.

  • After a little trial and error, I decided that Cambria was the font to go with for my non-fiction book. This change, alone, made a big difference.
  • I then decided to change the font to 11 pt. and chapter headings to 18 pt. in the print copy of my book.
  • I reduced the line spacing from 1.5 to 1.2.  Seeing the proof copy confirmed that this was a good decision.
  • Still, something else was missing. It needed a little pizzazz. The subheadings needed to stand out without being obnoxious. I decided to simply go bold. I used these headings sparingly.
  • The chapter headings were 18 pt. bold and italicized.

Getting everything in the right (or left) place

One matter of convention (though it really is personal preference) is what goes on the left and what goes on the right. When you open a book, the page on the right-hand side of the book is called recto. The page on the left-hand side is called verso. I believe making your book look good includes keeping (most) front matter pages as well as starting all chapters on the right hand (recto) side of your book.

I put the copyright page on the backside or the verso of the half-title page. I have seen it both ways and for some reason, I like it this way. Likewise, I center it for no good reason other than I like it that way. You can also left-align it if you like.

Center the dedication page. This is important.

Choose how far down the page you will have chapter title or numbers. This is also personal preference. I chose to start mine 2 inches down. and then the content down an inch further. If my chapter title was 2 lines, the content was pushed yet a half an inch lower.

Your paragraphs should be “justified” rather that “ragged.” Ragged edges are fine for online content such as this blog post, but the smooth justified text that matched up along the margins looks far better in your book.

Wait to add page numbers to your table of contents until the very end when you know exactly what page each chapter/section will begin on. Until then, just list the chapter titles. I began my table of contents 1 inch down rather than 2 so that I could fit all of the contents on 2 pages.

Formatting Making your book look good

Easy as 1-2-3…or Not

If there was one thing that drove me out of my mind when formatting my book for print, it was page numbers. Getting them right is a huge part of making your book look good. I finally got them (mostly) right.

Some basic rules for making your book look good while formatting your page numbers are as follows:

Front matter pages should be left blank, but you still count your pages so that you know which page number you will be on when you do start to put the numbers on the pages.

You will begin actually numbering when you are on the Foreword or Introduction (if your book has these). If you have these sections (as well as the prologue, acknowledgments, and other sections of this type) you will number them with roman numerals. My forward started on the 9th page of the book so I numbered it ix.

formatting: Making your book look good

Any blank pages should be left blank (no page numbers). Like the front matter, count the pages so that the next section has the correct numeral in it. This is where I failed miserably, though not for lack of trying. If anyone can figure this out, I would love for you to write a guest post on this topic, for me. I got the front matter numberless, but after that, it was all downhill.

The pages in the body of your book will be numbered with Arabic numerals.

formatting: Making your book look good

Don’t Forget

Facing Cancer as a ParentIt’s important to consider your headers and footnotes, as well. Their font doesn’t automatically change with the rest of the document.

Also, use care when deciding whether or not to use bullet points. They are a benefit to web-based work such as blog posts. They can also look good in print books. E books are another matter entirely. Readers can change font styles and sizes on their devices. When they do, bullet points get thrown all out of whack. Therefore, you should never use bullet points in an e book. What I do is create my print copy first. Then I make the needed changes to create a good e book.

When your work is stylistically and visually consistent, it will look more professional and will give your readers a better reading experience.

*Incidentally, as a rule, I spell numbers out except on web-based media where numerals are more eye-catching.

Coming soon!

Facing Cancer as a Parent:

Helping Your Child Cope with Your Cancer —->>>

 

I’ll be out of town this week and my internet might be unreliable. I would still love to hear your comments on your experience in formatting books, blogs and anything else you can write. I will definitely respond as soon as I return!

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

editing your manuscript

In this post, we are going to look at editing your manuscript. When people think of editing, they tend to have flashbacks to their 4th-grade grammar class when they were parsing sentences and ensuring the spelling and punctuation was correct. We have moved up to the big leagues now.

Editing your manuscript has gotten a lot more complicated. For one thing, there are different types of editing. Whether you hire an editor (recommended), have a smart friend help, or do it yourself, you will need to be familiar with the various types. Because of everything involved in editing your manuscript, I will be giving you a broad overview of the process. Even if you are self-publishing, you can (and should) hire an editor to do any of these tasks that you are uncomfortable doing. If it is cost prohibitive, and it can be, consider which part of editing your manuscript can be best done by a professional and then just hire that one out.

Manuscript Critique

Before you get into the task of editing your manuscript, you will want to have someone take a big picture look at what you’ve written. In traditional publishing, a professional editor will do this. As a self-published writer, you have the option of paying for a professional manuscript critique. If you wish to save money on this task in favor of paying for another professional editing service down the road, you can enlist the help of a critique partner or a friend.  Ask someone (or two), who you know will be very honest with you, to read through your project. They should be familiar with the genre in which you are writing, and have a good understanding of your goal for the manuscript. They will tell you what parts they liked and what didn’t seem to work.

Be Honest when editing your manuscript

It’s essential that at this stage as well as the other stages of editing your manuscript, you look at your work with an honest and ruthless eye. Develop a thick skin and never take any criticism personally. After all, you are still in the process of editing your manuscript. It is only by being honest about any issues present that you can have the best final product.

Imagine that you just had an amazing meal with friends. You are laughing and having a great time. Then you go home feeling like it was a fantastic outing. As you enter your home, you pass a large mirror in the hallway. You notice there is something. It’s a huge particle of spinach, right between your front teeth! You recalled all of the laughter. Everyone had to have seen it. Why didn’t anyone tell you? Wouldn’t you have much rather had someone tell you about the spinach in your teeth right away? And wouldn’t you have taken it out of your teeth immediately?

That’s how you need to look at editing your manuscript. Sure, it would be nice if your work was perfect to begin with, but chances are, it will take a lot of work to get it right. It’s important that when people critique or edit your work, you listen respectfully. That includes not making excuses for your work. If you disagree with them, you don’t need to implement their suggestions, but don’t waste their time by arguing about it. They are giving you their honest feedback. That’s valuable. They are the one risking offending you by pointing out the spinach in your teeth.

Content Editing

Content editing will look at the structure of what you are writing. Think of editing as if you are a sculptor. This is your masterpiece. As a sculptor, you are taking away, adding, or moving large parts of clay (or whatever medium you are sculpting with), to give your sculpture its basic form.

Whether you’ve written a blog post or a book, this is where you start. The first thing you need to think about is the big picture of what you are writing. You need to ask:

  • What is the goal of this piece?
  • And who is your audience?
  • What is the audience expecting and needing?

These questions will save you a lot of time, later.

Let me give you an example

editing your manuscript

As I was writing, “Facing Cancer as a Parent.” I had a chapter on Family Care Conferences. It was a fantastic chapter full of important information. In it I explained why it’s important to gather the family (adults only) together to makes decisions about how to best support a cancer patient (and by extension, their family). It also covered the logistics of these meetings.

When I stepped back and took a big picture look at the book, it didn’t fit. My intended audience was parents who have cancer and want to help their kids through this time. Did the chapter deliver? Sort of… but not really. I needed all of the content to have one aim—helping kids to thrive in spite of their parent having cancer. The information in that chapter would do that indirectly, but for the book to be powerful and do what it promised, everything had to directly impact the reader’s kids. This chapter just didn’t qualify. So I cut it.

How does this save time later on?

By making major structural changes early on you save yourself the hassle of having to do the more detailed editing tasks on this content, later. PLUS, this chapter will be perfect in a future book focused on caregivers and/or patients.

We don’t write words for the sake of a word count. We only want to put out the best. Cutting content creates cutting-edge content! These structural changes create the skeleton of your book’s body. They give it strength and flow.

Line Editing

Editing I is an art, and line editing is the most creative part of the process. This is when you look at your content at the paragraph and sentence level. While editing your manuscript you’re a sculptor detailing your masterpiece.

You are going to:

  • Spice up any blah language
  • Correct issues with sentence structure
  • Clear up any confusing or ambiguous phrasing
  • Improve the pacing of a book
  • Remove repeated phrases or words

Copy Editing

This is editing your manuscript at a very technical and detailed level. It’s often what people think of when they picture editing. In copy editing, you as a sculptor are sanding your masterpiece down to perfection.

You and your software, or your editor, or a brilliant friend, will check:

  • Punctuation
  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Consistency in details throughout the manuscript
  • Any glaring factual errors

Proofreading

This happens after you’ve submitted your manuscript and ordered a proof. You can get an electronic copy of the proof as well as a physical proof. Never submit your manuscript for final publication without looking at a physical proof of your book.

I recently ordered a proof of Facing Cancer as a Parent. When I got the copy I was surprised to see inconsistencies in the font size. I have a sneaking suspicion about how this happened. Regardless, it was cause for me to make the necessary changes before it went to print.

What about proofreading my E-book?

That should definitely be done electronically. Read it on a variety of devices and see how your formatting holds up to the changes readers will make. For example:

  • Font size
  • Background color
  • Portrait vs. Landscape view

Make sure you remove any elements that won’t stand up to these things. Bullets are one of these elements. When you put them into an e-reader they can wind up all over the place.

Can’t I just do it by myself?

By the time you get to the editing stage of your project, you will not only have written it, but you will have read it several times. The problem is that your brain now knows what to expect, so it’s difficult to know whether that sentence you feel like you’ve seen 4 times is really repeated that often in your manuscript, or it just feels that way because of how often you’ve read your manuscript. It’s also nearly impossible to see typos and errors because you are, in a sense, blind to them.

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

 


outlining your non-fiction book

I am big on using an outline in my writing process. Since (for now) I would like to avoid the whole pantsers vs. plotters debate, I will focus this post on outlining your non-fiction book. There are several reasons I recommend outlining your non-fiction book …

Outlining your non-fiction book will help you come up with ideas

Think of it as a method of brainstorming. You are getting all the ideas that have been swirling around in your head, out and onto paper. Some of these ideas will work and will be worth exploring deeper. Others will seem disconnected from the group. Maybe you can use them for another project, but they really don’t belong in this particular book. You can identify these easily because they don’t fit anywhere on your outline.

During this process, you can see what decisions you need to make

For example, in Facing Cancer as a Parent, I included a section called Ages and Stages. In it I cover how children from 0 to 26 years old react to, and cope with, a parent’s cancer. That’s a big span of ages! So, I broke them down into brackets: Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers, School Age, Preteens and Teens, and Young Adults.

Outlining your non-fiction book will help you organize your thoughts.

As you plan your book, you will see patterns emerge from your outline. By identifying these patterns and developing them, your book will go from a bunch of disconnected thoughts with a common theme to organized ideas that naturally flow from one to the next. Outlining your non-fiction book is the most efficient and practical way to achieve that.

You will have your Table of Contents

You will want to pretty your outline up with clever chapter titles and page numbers, but after outlining your non-fiction book you will have a basic table of contents.

How to do it?

No, I won’t bore you with the same outlining rules you learned in the 4th grade. In fact, you don’t even need to remember your Roman numerals. Instead, we will look at form and function.

  1. Remember when I said that outlining was a lot like brainstorming? That’s the first thing you’re going to do. Write down your main idea and then all of the things you would like to say to your readers about that idea. You might do this in the form of a list or as a mind map. Use whatever method you like best.
  2. Look for the patterns in your ideas. Start to rearrange your ideas in a logical way.
  3. Decide if you will have chapters grouped into larger sections or if you will simply have chapters follow one another in succession. Either way, they will need to flow, logically.
  4. When you are ready to create your table of contents, you can write clever section/chapter titles. Wait until your book is ready to publish before you add page numbers. If you make any changes to your book the numbers can get thrown all out of whack.

See? No Roman numerals necessary. Do you have a different way of organizing your books or blog posts? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

Style Guide

You’ve written your book proposal and decided that your idea for a book is definitely worth pursuing. As a self-published author (or an independent blogger) you will want your content to look as professional as possible. This means doing some of the same things professional publishers do. In this “Behind the Scenes of Self-Publishing” post, I will be sharing why it’s important for every self-published writer to have a style guide.

Create your style guide, or adopt one that someone else has created, early on in your writing process (the earlier the better). In your style guide, you will answer questions about how information is presented. You can then refer to your style guide throughout your writing and publishing process to keep your content consistent.

Because of issues that can arise when you actually publish your book, you will want to wait to implement fonts and formatting until you get to that point. I’ll give you the low-down on that in a later post.

First, consider style choices for your content.

For example:

  • How will you handle capitalization and numbering of titles and headings?
  • What types of words will you hyphenate? For example, I hyphenate ages like this: “thirteen-year-old.”
  • Will you spell out numbers in full, or not? In books, I spell them in full, as you can see in the previous example. In blog posts, however, I use numerals. So you may want to have a different style sheet for each type of content you publish.
  • How will you write out dates?
  • Will you use footnotes or endnotes? What citation rules will you follow?
  • How will you organize your bibliography?
  • Is your book or blog specialized? If so, how will you handle specific vocabulary and acronyms that the general public is unfamiliar with? WIll you have a glossary or index?
  • Are there specific grammar and punctuation rules you will encounter that are flexible? For example, do you use the Oxford comma? Decide how you will follow these rules in your specific publication and stay consistent!

Perdue OWL is just one of the great online resources to help you wade through the technical aspects of this.

It’s your style guide

You are in control of it. If you are writing for someone else, you will follow their chosen style guide, but as a self-published writer, you can bring your own distinctive flair to the table.  It is important that you stay consistent in how you present it, though. That’s why knowing from the outset of the project how to handle various situations, is important.

Consistency=Professionalism

Where will you place your content within the book?

There are so many things you can put into a book. The following is a fairly comprehensive list. You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) used all of these pages. Look at books that are similar to what you are writing. What do their author’s include? Be practical. For example, my daughter wrote the foreword to Facing Cancer as a Parent. This was appropriate since she grew up with a parent who has cancer. She could speak to my qualifications to write the book. Because of that, I didn’t need to include a preface. It would have been redundant. Only use the parts you need and keep the rest in order.

Front Matter

  • Book Half Title Page—This is the title only (No subtitle or byline)
  • Series Title Page—A list of other published work in the series or a blank page. This is on the backside of the book half-title page.
  • Title Page—Your book’s full title and subtitle, as well as your name and that of any co-author(s) and/or translator.
  • Copyright Page—Copyright notice, including the year of publication and the name of the copyright holder (usually the author), permissions and acknowledgments, publisher’s address and country of publication, categories, ISBN, and disclaimers.
  • Dedication—Optional.
  • Epigraph—A quotation along the theme of the book (optional).
  • Table of Contents—Only used in nonfiction and Fiction when the chapters have titles. Subheadings are optional.
  • Foreword—Most common in nonfiction. Written by someone other than the author, typically an expert in the field of the book’s subject.
  • Preface—Most commonly found in nonfiction books. Describes the author’s qualifications to write about the book’s subject.
  • Acknowledgments—While traditionally positioned here, this note of appreciation to those who supported or helped the author as they wrote the book is more commonly being placed in the back matter. This is due to the logistics of the sample pages an author is allowed to display in online stores like Amazon.com. By placing the acknowledgments in the back, the prospective reader is able to see the more pertinent material.
  • Introduction—This is preliminary information the author wants to share to help the reader better understand the material they will read. In a fiction book, this will be a prologue, which will set the scene or introduce characters.
  • A 2nd Half Title Page—This is optional, and usually only used is there is extensive front matter.

The Body of the Material

Usually divided into sections, chapters, and subchapters.

Back Matter

  • Afterword—Situates the book in a wider context. In fiction, this is an “epilogue” to bring closure to the story.
  • Note to the Reader—When self-publishing a book, it is common and advisable to write a professional note to the reader thanking them for reading your book and requesting that if they enjoyed it, would they please consider writing a review of the book on Amazon.com and Goodreads. This is particularly applicable in an e-book format.
  • Acknowledgments are more commonly being placed here.
  • Appendix—Includes any data, tables, reports, research, and sources.
  • Chronology—Used to list the events in a historical context.
  • Glossary—Lists any complex or technical terms.
  • Bibliography—Depending on how you cite your sources, this lists source material at the end of the book.
  • Contributors and Credits—Lists any contributors to the book and credits any illustrations.

Later you will format your content.

Formatting is anything you do to change the appearance of the text. This includes:

  • Font: style, size, bold, italics, underline, etc.
  • Spacing: Single, double, or somewhere in between?
  • Lists: Will they be bulleted, numbered, in outline form, etc.?
  • How will you treat book and chapter titles, headings, subheadings, etc.?

Write your formatting choices down in your style guide, as well. You can (and should) use this same guide in all of your future books, especially those in a series.

If you are a blogger, you will create a style guide for all of your blog posts! Often it evolves over time, as you learn what you and your readers like. Later, you can freshen up old posts and make any changes necessary for consistency.

Next week…

I will tell you more about formatting and why it’s important to hold off on formatting until you are ready to publish. You will want to start thinking about this early on, though.

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.


Book Proposal

According to one survey, 81% of people believe they have a book in them.  Unfortunately, most people don’t[i].  They might have a story in them, but a book is another thing, entirely. A book is written for an audience. In the past, publishers have asked the questions that ensured whether or not a book would likely sell. Writers answer these questions in the form of a book proposal. With the ability to self-publish, no one is asking these questions.

Today, most writers:

  • Don’t know what sells
  • Overestimate the demand for their book idea in an already saturated market
  • Overestimate their ability as a writer
  • Don’t realize how much time it takes to write, edit, format, publish, and market their book
  • Are often too satisfied with a low-quality book

How can you know whether or not your idea for a book is worth pursuing?

Start where traditionally published writers do, with a book proposal.

When someone is attempting to traditionally publish, they don’t invest the time and energy into writing a book until they know someone wants to publish it for them. So they write a book proposal to answer two questions a publisher will ask:

  • Why should I publish this book?
  • Why are you the person to write it?

As a writer attempting to self-publish, you need to answer these same questions. You do this in your book proposal. This guide is meant as a starting point for self-published writers to assess the viability of their book in much the same way that a publisher does. And it only makes sense to do this. After all, you are the publisher!

If you are trying to traditionally publish, you will want to be more precise and professional in its layout.

Start with an introduction.

  • What is your book about?

This should hook your audience enough that they will see there’s a compelling reason to consider your book.

  • What is its genre/category?

A great way to determine this is to go to your local library. Find a book that is very similar to what you want to write and see how it is categorized. You might need to tweak it to find the best fit, but this is a good starting point. Amazon.com can be used in a similar manner. Unfortunately, many self-published authors miscategorize their books so make sure you aren’t following someone down the wrong path.

If you happen to be writing a novel, the best resource I know of is the Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. He does an excellent job of explaining genre and how to decide which genre your book falls under. It’s much more complex than it sounds, but he gives step by step guidance to help you sort it out.

Include an estimated length as well as the number of photos and/or illustrations. Pages with images are often more expensive and will need to be figured into the publishing cost.

What about the competition?

Like the three bears, it’s important that you have some competition, but that the market isn’t overly saturated. What about that book that no one has thought of yet? You know… the really original idea.

“There are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone, depending on which stats you believe. Many of those – perhaps as many as half or even more – are self-published. On average, they sell less than 250 copies each.”[ii]

With that many books being published each year, if no one has thought to write about something, then no one is thinking about reading it, either. So some competition is good. But, you also need to stand out from the crowd. The perfect example of this is the cancer book market. I can speak to this since I am a part of this over-saturated market.

Before writing my book, “Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who has Cancer,” I spoke with David Henry Sterry of The Book Doctors. He explained that traditional publishers are very leery of publishing books about cancer because everyone who has ever been diagnosed with cancer has decided to write a memoir about it and they just haven’t sold well. He was also quick to point out that there is still a market for books in this category…

But you need to stand out from the crowd

I chose to do this by focusing more on the practical advice people need when facing cancer, rather than our story. My goal was to stand out from the more sterile “about cancer” books written by professionals, by making my books very readable from the voice of experience, while focusing on the reader.

Find comparable books. It’s helpful to know what books have the same style and feeling as the book you are writing. You can use this information in your book description on its sales page, as well. “If you like “Such and Such,” you’re going to love…” Also, know what is missing from each of those books, and how your book fills the void.

Book Proposal

Who is your book’s audience?

Narrow down who your audience is, as much as possible. It is common for writers to write their book in a generalized manner in an attempt to please everyone. Unfortunately, when you do this, you connect with no one. Drilling down to a specific audience in your book proposal results in your readers feeling like the book was written just for them. And in a sense, it was! How is your book going to benefit this audience?

Is it part of a series?

Will there be sequels? This is a huge factor in marketability. As I talked to David Henry Sterry about a mystery series I was starting, I said I planned on writing 3 books. It took place in a small town and you can only have so many murders in a small town before people start checking the water. Sterry laughed and said, “No way. Think about Murder She Wrote. There’s a murder every week in Cabot Cove.”  That’s how an expert marketer thinks. Possibilities!

Who are you?

In your book proposal, consider what makes you the ideal person to write this book. You are selling yourself as much as your book. What is your platform? This is the place from which you will market your book and yourself.  It includes your website, your social media accounts, and your mailing list. All of these connect you to your audience in a more personal way. Publishers demand a well-established platform. You will need them to get your book in front of your audience. Consider all the ways you can publicise your book and include those ideas here so that when you are marketing, you already have the beginning of a plan.

Are you consulting an expert if your subject is a specialized one?

For my book, Facing Cancer as a Parent, I consulted a child-life specialist who specializes in children who have a parent with cancer. As a parent of children whose dad has cancer, I have a level of expertise that was earned the hard way, through experience. But, when you are dealing with something as important as the well-being of children, you want to ensure the information you are publishing is technically correct, as well. Consulting an expert adds to your book’s credibility.

An Outline

I know there are die-hard “pantsers” out there, writers who fly by the seat of their pants and see where their muse takes them. The truth is until you are established as an author, a publisher wants to know where you’re going with your book. What’s going to be in it? Even though this book proposal is for your benefit as a self-published writer, you will want to plan out your book in outline form.

Start by listing your chapters and then under each chapter heading, list the subheadings, or what you will detail in each chapter. This will help you to get the flow of your book planned.

Sample Chapter

Even as a self-published writer, including a sample chapter in your book proposal, will help you to set the tone and get the formatting straight. We will talk more about formatting in a future post.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.

Footnotes:

[i] Joseph Epstein, New York Times, September 28, 2002, “Think You Have a Book in You? Think Again”

[ii] Forbes, Jan. 8, 2013. Nick Welsh, Contributor. “Thinking of Self-Publishing Your Book in 2013? Here’s What You Need to Know.”

 

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