independent publishing

Self-Publishing Toolkit: 4 Essentials for Authors

One of the questions I get asked most often is:

How can I self-publish my manuscript? What do I need? How do I turn my pile of ideas into a polished book?

(Okay, that's three questions.)

Self-publishing is not for everyone. If you're looking to get rich quick without a lot of work . . . well, look elsewhere.

But! If you're a writer who puts in the time and effort to make her work as strong and polished as possible, who cares deeply about his reader, then I've got my top recommended tools to turn you from writerly hopeful into published author.

Are you ready? Okay, let's go.

1. Something to write on, digitally speaking

The first must-have every self-publishing author needs is something to create your manuscript with. This can be as simple as your basic word processor -- Open Office Writer is a great free option available for both PC and Mac.

If you'd like to save yourself some time and sanity and make your manuscript look much more professional with much less effort, you may want to upgrade to Scrivener. I wrote and published my novel, The Light Between Us, with Open Office, and then used Scrivener for my next book, Night Cycles. I will never go back to Open Office for work I'm going to publish to Kindle. Nope nope nope. If you have the extra cash, I'd recommend trying out Scrivener for a free test drive to see what you think.

You don't need Scrivener, of course. Open Office and Microsoft Word will do just fine. But you need some kind of word processor. If you don't have one, you need to get one ASAP. I'll wait.

2. Be Your Own Publisher from Lucy Pearce

Okay, so you've got your word processor of choice downloaded. But now you're looking at your manuscript and wondering how in the world you're going to be able to turn it into a professional looking book, much less defeat the frustrating + tricksy wiles of Kindle.

In between publishing The Light Between Us and Night Cycles, I purchased Lucy Pearce's e-course, Be Your Own Publisher.

This course was hands-down the best investment I have ever made in my writer career. Seriously, ever.

In Be Your Own Publisher, Lucy covers everything -- e v e r y t h i n g -- from writing your first draft to editing to cover design to navigating CreateSpace to formatting for print and Kindle to self-care.

I cannot begin to tell you the amount of tooth-gnashing and hair-rending Be Your Own Publisher saved me. But you can go look at the innards of The Light Between Us and Night Cycles in Amazon's free "look inside" feature to see just how much Lucy's course taught me. My books went from looking super n00b-ish to polished and professional solely because of Be Your Own Publisher.

Do yourself a favor. Get this course.

3. A Good Proofreader

Another asset that you cannot do without as you seek to self-publish your book is a good proofreader. This might be your mom, or your writing accountability buddy that you're swapping critiques with, or someone that you hire.

Whatever you choose, you absolutely need someone else's eyes on your manuscript to help catch copy errors. Because you will miss your own errors. I learned this the hard way. Don't be like me.

4. A Professional Cover Designer

With free + low-cost options like Canva available, it's really tempting to try to create our own book covers. I mean, that's money saved!

Except that a good professional cover designer can elevate the professional look of your book in a way that you probably can't on your own, because they've got loads more experience at graphic design than we writers do. And a more professional looking cover means that more new readers are likely to take a chance on your work.

I've written and published three books. I designed the cover for two of them, and hired a designer for the other. I bet you can guess just by looking at them which one I made.

My favorite cover designer? Paper and Sage Design. You can choose from her cache of pre-made covers, or spend a little more to get a custom design. Both options are very reasonably priced, and she can create some social media banners to match your book's cover as well.

Some Nice Extras . . .

If you're looking to go the extra mile with your self-published book, you might also want to purchase your own ISBN to help support bookstores who sell your work and/or invest in some Facebook ads when your book is available. But if this is your first time out, the above four essentials are what I recommend you focus your energy and assets on. You've got this!

Whew! Are you still with me? That might sound like a lot, but getting your book out on your terms is not as difficult as you might think. (And I'm serious on checking out Lucy's e-course. It will eliminate SO. MUCH. overwhelm.)

And! I have a lovely freebie that will be of huge benefit to you if you're looking to publish a poetry manuscript soon, but need a little help putting the darn thing together. It's a 13 page e-book called How To Assemble Your Poetry Book, and it's available for immediate download -- for FREE (I know, right?!).

In How To Assemble Your Poetry Book, I walk you through how to take that pile of poems you've written and turn it into a cohesive, enjoyable text.

Ready to download it? Enter your info below and I'll email your copy of How To Assemble Your Poetry Book right away:

Get Your Free Copy!

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In How To Assemble Your Poetry Book, I walk you through how to take that pile of poems you've written and turn it into a cohesive, enjoyable text. Huzzah!

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Enjoy!

 

*This post contains affiliate links. I only promote products that I adore. Thanks for supporting independent authors + artists!

Delicious Words: The Best of Books Devoured in 2014


I love reading.  L O V E reading.  Books have sustained me through some of the hardest challenges of my life.  They are inspiration, education, and sanctuary.  They challenge and uproot.  They uplift my whole person.

That said . . . I've been rather lax in my reading.  Part of it is that being a mama takes up a lot of time (in an awesome way), but then after my sweet boy goes to bed, it's honestly easier to take in some TV shows on Amazon Prime than it is to pick up a book.

Still, my goal was to read ten books in 2014 (I know, I know, such a small goal for a woman who professes to L O V E reading), and I exceeded that.  So yay me.  And also yay to the fact that reading, even what feels like a paltry amount, has reminded me of just how much I need to be reading.  Not just because it is awesome and good for your brain and nourishing to me on a personal level, but also as a writer.  If I want to be a professional writer, I need to be a professional reader, too.

Here are some of my [highly professional?] favorite reads of 2014.


Non-fiction

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd.  This was my first read of the year, and oh man, was it a good one -- and kind of perfect that it was my premiere book of 2014.  It's an autobiographical account of author Kidd's journey out of patriarchy and into her own self.  Perfect for any woman seeking to embrace her own woman-ness in a deeper way.

“I often went to Catholic mass or Eucharist at the Episcopal church, nourished by the symbol and power of this profound feeding ritual. It never occurred to me how odd it was that women, who have presided over the domain of food and feeding for thousands of years, were historically and routinely barred from presiding over it in a spiritual context. And when the priest held out the host and said, "This is my body, given for you," not once did I recognize that it is women in the act of breastfeeding who most truly embody those words and who are also most excluded from ritually saying them.” 

- from The Dance of the Dissident Daughter


Immortal Diamond: The Search For Our True Self by Richard Rohr.  If you follow me on social media, you may already know that I read a good deal of Rohr's works this year.  I even started a free book on Facebook for other Rohr readers.  So I probably don't have to tell you that I really (really, really) like what Rohr has to say.  Reading this Franciscan's priest's words helped move me from seeing the world, and specifically matters of spirituality and faith, in black and white (otherwise known as dualism) to opening up to a greater and more mysterious spectrum of existence and possibility.  Read it if you're weary of spiritual shoulds and are looking for another way.  I also recommend The Naked Now, Job and the Mystery of Suffering, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, and Falling Upward, all by Rohr and all among my 2014 reads.

“Metaphor is the only possible language available to religion because it alone is honest about Mystery.” 

- from Immortal Diamond


Red, Hot, and Holy: A Heretic's Love Story by Sera Beak.  I have something of a love/hate relationship with this book.  I felt like the book's description made promises that the book itself did not deliver on.  However, I have to put it on this list anyway because I love how committed Beak is to finding her whole self, no matter the cost.  Don't read this is a self-help book (that's what messed me up, I think -- read her The Red Book if that's what you need) but as an autobiographical love story between one woman and her Holy.

“Ideas aren’t helping you anymore, Sera. Concepts have run their course. Paradigms pop. Theories leak. Techniques are only top-offs. Beliefs brush away. Books close. Workshops end. What truly transforms is this Closeness with Me. You gotta hug Me so tight that nothing comes between Us.” 

- from Red, Hot, and Holy


Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.  I haven't finished this yet, despite having started it at the end of 2013.  It's not the kind of book you can rush through.  I find it hard to read more than a few pages at a time, because it is rich and healing and alive.  It is a collection of retold myths and fairytales.  Required reading for the awakening woman.

“If you have yet to be called an incorrigable, defiant woman, don't worry, there is still time.” 

- from Women Who Run With the Wolves

Fiction

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.  This book.  This book.  It is perhaps the best book I read this year.  It is a work of art, leaving me breathless like few works of fiction ever have.  It is hard, and lovely, and challenging, and sacred.  Go.  Read it.  Now.  I'll wait.  (And read Ness's other works afterward, because those are really quite good, too.)

Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?” 

- from A Monster Calls


The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo.  This trilogy isn't high art like Ness's book.  But it is really, really fun.  And it's set in a fantasy world based loosely in Russian culture, which I found unique and refreshing.  The story can be a little predictable, but Bardugo makes up for that with lots of engaging adventure, bloodshed, characters that you care about (pirates!!!!), and romance that I didn't hate.  Like I said,  I had a blast reading these, and couldn't stop until I'd consumed all three back to back to back.

“Anything worth doing always starts as a bad idea.” 

- from Siege and Storm, book 2 of the Grisha Trilogy


His Fair Assassin Trilogy by Robin Lafevers.  I started this series in 2013, but the final book only released this November.  I have been practically panting for it all year, and per-ordered it so I'd get it on release day -- I never pre-order books.  I basically love this trilogy with all my heart.  It's about assassin nuns (assassin nuns, people!!!) set in medieval Burgundy.  Snarky, deliciously dark at times, full of ass-kicking women, they are SO GOOD. 

“I comfort myself with the knowledge that if Duval ever feels smothered by me, it will be because I am holding a pillow over his face.” 

- from Grave Mercy, book 1 of the His Fair Assassin Trilogy


Magdalen Rising by Elizabeth Cunningham.  This book is the first in The Maeve Chronicles, a series retelling the story of Mary Magdalen.  Under Cunningham's care, Mary becomes the fierce and fiery Celtic (eeek!) Maeve, who is raised by seven mothers and goes off for training under the Druids once she comes of age.  Trigger warning: there is sexual violence which, while not explicit, is nonetheless devastating.  Honestly, although it took me awhile to come around to it, this is one of the reasons I love this book.  It's the best fictional representation of sexual violence I've seen because, as with true life sex crimes, it completely stops and reroutes the story.  Nothing is the same after this intimate shattering.  I'm looking forward to reading the remaining books in the series.

“I've outgrown my childhood name, and I haven't found a new one yet.”

- from Magdalen Rising
Poetry

Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God by Rainer Maria Rilke.  No best-of-books list would be complete without poetry.  And Rilke's poetry is so, so rich.  It is just what I needed to read: the words of a mystic, questioning, reaching into the darkness, and learning to be satisfied with not-knowing.  Rilke's poetry echoes my own heart's throbbing.

“I circle around God, that primordial tower. / I have been circling for thousands of years, / And I still don't know: am I a falcon, / A storm, or a great song?” 

- from Rilke's Book of Hours


The Anatomy of Being by Shinji Moon.  I'm still working my way through this collection of poetry, but it is powerful.  Visceral, electric, and full of emotion.  And I love that Moon independently published it.  Basically, yum.

“You will lie to everyone you love. / They will love you anyways.” 

- from The Anatomy of Being

Friends' books

This list would not be complete without mentioning the bravery of my friends who published books in 2014.  I've blogged about a couple, but here they are in their totality, all gorgeous and worth reading(I feel pretty sure I'm forgetting someone . . . if so, my deepest apologies! pregnancy brain strikes again -- remind me and I will happily add yours to the list!)

For 2015 . . .

I've already started reading some of the books that will become my best-books-of-2015 list, I can just feel it.  Like A Discovery of Witches, for example, which I'm currently devouring.  I'd like to read more fiction across a variety of genres, styles, and topics, both for fun and for my edification as a writer.  I tend toward reading a lot of more self-help-y kind of books (usually spiritual ones), particularly when I feel like my heart is spinning.  So more fiction for 2015.

I'd also like to read more parenting books.  I've bought a decent bunch of them over the past two years, and have barely touched them.  I'd like to finish one or two.

Similar to my accumulation of parenting books, I've accumulated even more books on writing over the years -- and again haven't read most of them.  So I'm planning on reading more of those, particularly Writing Begins With the Breath because, well, writing tends to bring out the worst of my neuroses, so writing + breathing sounds like a better plan than writing + emotional eating, or writing + floundering in self-doubt, or writing + depression.

Looking back over this list, I notice that the authors mentioned are predominantly white.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is curious.  I'd like to widen my range of authors, to take in the experiences of those who don't look like me.  I think it's important, as a person and as a writer.  I've already started doing this with my son's books, expanding our picture book collection with stories featuring non-white characters and both male and female main characters, as well as purchasing toys that aren't all male, or the kind of toys marketed only for males.  It's time to challenge myself and expand my mind in some of the same ways as I'm doing for my son.  One book I'm particularly looking forward to/nervous about reading is Writing the Other, which delves into penning characters of a different ethnicity than the author.

And more poetry.  Because poetry = awesome.

On top of that, a number of my friends are publishing new books in 2015, so I'm also looking forward to getting my hands on those.

Most of all, though -- I've purchased a TON of books I haven't read yet in the last year or two.  So my main book goals for 2015 are to a) read a bunch, and b) buy no more books!  (Anyone else have a book buying problem?)

I'm also having a baby in the spring if all goes well, so I'm setting these book (and all 2015) goals with fluidity and grace.  Who knows how much time I'll have to read/create/brush my teeth in the second half of the year, so I'm holding everything quite loosely (or trying to). 

Okay, enough from me.  Your turn!  What were some of your favorite reads of 2014?  Anyone with me in the assassin nun fangirling?  How about your reading hopes for the new year?


*this post contains affiliate links. thanks for support the blog!

Why, Hello There! Or, Where I've Been . . .


Well, it's been quite silent here, hasn't it?  And while I try to give myself both space and grace to be okay with not-writing, it makes me sad to not connect with you for so long.

So, let's start off with what life's been looking like in my corner of the world, shall we?

We've had birthdays (as cliche as it is, I cannot believe that our not-so-little guy is growing up so fast!) . . .


. . . gotten our annual family pictures taken (I love this tradition of documenting our lives and how we've grown and changed both as individuals and a family) . . .


. . . and gotten pregnant (do you like how I just slipped that one in there? sneaky sneaky). 


Check out my epic eight week belly from a couple of weeks ago.  I mean, come on.  What is in there?  It's like all my innards decided to unite to make space for our new tiny, tiny one.  But I love having a pregnant belly, so it works out quite well.  Although this time around I'm experiencing much more all-day nausea, so that's not as fun.  But I am determined to enjoy this pregnancy, and will try to leave my anxieties aside.  So far, so good . . .


We've been enjoying beautiful fall, although it's been unseasonably warm.  I'm ready for some crisp sweater weather!  Autumn is my absolute favorite season:



It was also my pleasure to be involved in the creation of my city's first ever October 15th Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness remembrance event.  It was a sacred, special time, joining the international wave of light with our own candle-lighting:



And as if that all wasn't enough, I've returned to my novel-in-progress:


As you may remember, since just before the release of my first indie novel, The Light Between Us ($0.99 on Kindle, FYI!), I've been working on a second novel.  This one is more ambitious and complicated, a sort of urban fantasy inspired by Celtic mythology.  And -- writing it ran my heart into the ground.  The story stopped making sense or having any sort of direction.  My depression returned with a vengeance, and sitting down to write felt like an exercise in self-hatred.

So I walked away.  To save my sanity, I walked away.  Put the book aside, even though I'd invested a great deal of time into it and had written over 60,000 words on it.  Showing up, doing it anyway, and faking it 'til I made it weren't helping, so I rested.  And got pregnant, and therefore rested some more.

But recently (perhaps inspired by my dear friend as she prepares to launch her own book into the world soon), I felt the novel calling.  So I've come back to it, with more than a little trepidation, and have s l o w l y begun laying down words again.

I seem to have found the ends of at least of the couple of threads winding their way through the story and I think I know where it's all going now.  And, best of all, I believe that I can finish, and that it will be an enjoyable tale -- whereas before I thought I'd never be able to figure it out, and even if I did, it was all totally tripe anyway. 

I suppose you could say I've found some confidence again.  Or (or perhaps and) that wonderful blend of egotism and fatalism that seems to protect every working writer -- the simultaneous beliefs that the story is wonderful and will be read and enjoyed, encouraging the writer, and also that no one will read it, therefore freeing the writer from fear of criticism.


But that still leaves the blog.  Because I'm not sure what's going on here in this space anymore.

For the longest time, this blog has been a place for me to process.  First through my eating disorder, then my Eve girl's stillbirth, and most recently through my faith thrashings.  But now, I feel that I've come to a good measure of healing in all these areas, and the words that needed to be expressed on these topics are no longer pressing up against my soul, begging to be loosed.

So what to write about?  What is there for me to say?

I don't know.  But I do feel that this blog is going to change slightly, to accommodate my inner changes.  I no longer seem to be "writing through the dark," as this blog's subtitle was for the past year or so, but have written my way into some sort of freedom.

So keep your eyes on this space as once again I/we change and shift and grow.  Into what, I have no idea.  But finding out will be quite a wonderful adventure.

Over to you -- what's been going on in your life these days, my dear blog friends?

Portals of Water and Wine by R.L. Haas {Cover Reveal!}

So. It's been a little while hasn't it, dear blog reader? And perhaps it seems to return (maybe?) from my writing sojourn with a post about someone else's book. But I don't think it's lame at all, because this book is one I've been watching gestating many months now, growing at the fingertips of a dear, dear friend.  

Let me introduce a fairytale -- no, fairy epic: Portals of Water and Wine by R.L. Haas.  I have had the opportunity to beta reader this story, and it is just yummy, stuffed with myth, adventure, war, love, allegory, and a helluva lot of beauty.  Absolutely fantastic for an author's debut!  Portals will release December 1, and today, it is available for preorder on Amazon, and is just $0.99 for Kindle Eeee!!!  

Want to know more?  Read on for an exclusive synopsis and the dish on its kick-ass author, not to mention how to get in on the Portals online release party . . .


The war had waged for nineteen years. Alonthiel had been overrun with the Fledgling Armies, the children of Ash and Iron. They were the sons and daughters born once to Alonthiel, now so twisted and dark that their former Fae heritage was barely a drop flowing through their veins.

There had been a treaty, but it had been broken…somehow…no one could even remember the reason anymore. They had come in the night, with their feathered manes and glowing eyes the color of boiling blood and their fingernails set with iron. They had no need for swords, save the ones that grew from the ends of their hands. They were a deadly force, led into battle by their captain Flail, the son of the Fledgling King.
The sounds of children laughing had been replaced with widow’s wailing. The smashing and splashing of men’s glasses and bar-house celebrations had turned into the sound of metal on metal, metal on flesh.

The music was gone.

King Aboras had been crowned for only six days, a rushed ceremony without much pomp or fanfare. He was the fourth King since the war had begun. There was no separation of monarch from common man in the eye of the sword. He crouched in his tent, eyes fixed on the maps splayed on the table in front of him, but there was no focus or direction there.

He knew that this would be the last night. His armies were exhausted, running on little sleep and handfuls of food they gathered from the nearby woods. The supplies were sapped, and their powers were dwindling down to sparks. This was the end.

And so, in the darkness of the night with only the stars to provide light, Aboras gathered his people together, every last one that still lived. They circled around their king, loyal to the end. He could not lie to them. He told them of the losses, of the depletion of stores and the draining of magic. The end was coming; they should gather their families and run to the mountains, over the river that the Fledglings could not, would not, cross.

No one moved. Not one child tried to run, not one husband left his family. They all stood. None would leave their king.


R. L. Haas is one of the wild ones, writing Faerie stories from her little self-declared cottage surrounded by Midwestern cornfields and never enough coffee. Her nonfiction work has appeared in such online publications as SheLoves Magazine and Literary Orphans. She lives with her beloved husband and equally wild daughter, along with their oversized Great Dane. They are ruled over by two fluffy cats. She blogs about her faith, her heart and her ever-growing literary obsessions at dramaticelegance.blogspot.com.




Portals of Water and Wine releases Dec. 1. Preorder it now on Amazon, and add it to your "want to read" list on Goodreads. And don't forget to RSVP to the book release party!


Photo credit: Cover design by Megan Mahen of Megan Mahen Illustrations. Author photo by Jennifer Upton of Photography by Jennifer Upton.

Somewhere Between Water and Sky {A Book Launch + Giveaway!}

I heard it said once that every human is a story with skin.

If this is true, paragraphs would be etched in the scars on my wrists.

Whole chapters could be written about the way my heart pounds when I startle awake.

And every single one of my tears could fill a book.

But stories, with all their promise, only leave room for disappointment. I don’t have room for that anymore. I left it all—the hope, the love, the promise—back in my old life with the ghosts I’d rather forget: Jude. Emma. Pacey.

Kevin.

This is how I dare to move forward and to believe in a new beginning. I let go of the old. I just grab the new and run. I don’t wait around anymore. I can’t.

Waiting leaves room for the voices.

Somewhere between water and sky, I'll find a way to burn these voices to the ground.


Writing a book is really hard.  Like, really hard.  The combination of blind hope, precision, and sheer guts that it takes to not only write but release a book is insane, and awesome, and calls up all sorts of exhilaration and terror (the good kind) within me.

So when someone I know does it, launches a book out into this wide world, I'm going to say something.  And today, Elora Ramirez releases her latest book, Somewhere Between Water and Sky (that's what the above gorgeous words are from).  This is the sequel to her premiere novel which came out last year, which I also highly recommend.  I haven't gotten to read SBWaS yet, but I'm looking forward to it.  I know Elora from her online writing community, The Story Unfolding, and without her and the wonderful women I met there, my own book would never have happened.  So . . . thank you, and congrats, Elora!

And -- Elora is giving away a coaching session and an Amazon giftcard!  You can enter here, and following are links to where you can purchase a copy (psst: it's $0.99 on Kindle!), and to more of Elora's creations.

Grab a copy:

Elora Ramirez lives in Austin, Texas with her chef-husband. At the age of four, she taught herself how to read and write, cutting her teeth on books like Dr. Seuss and writing anywhere she could find the space--including her Fisher Price kitchen set, the pages of picture books and Highlights Magazine. Since then, she's grown to love the way words feel as they swell within her bones. Writing holy and broken is her calling, and pushing back the darkness and pursuing beauty through story is her purpose. She embraces the power of story and teaches women from all parts of the world how to embrace theirs. She has a knack of calling things out , the truth and the detail, the subversive threads that make a life a story. She loves hip-hop, wishes she lived by the beach and cannot write without copious amounts of coffee, chocolate, music, and her husband's lavender liqueur. 


http://www.amazon.com/Somewhere-Between-Water-Elora-Ramirez-ebook/dp/B00MR3Z62A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1410403770&sr=8-1&keywords=Somewhere+Between+Water+and+Sky

My Perfectly Imperfect Book Launch

I wrote a book.  And published it.  It's out there in the world right now, being both read and not read, as books are.  People own it.  This is exhilarating.  This is terrifying.

So.  Wondering how my indie book launch went?  Here's the good, the bad, the ugly, and the next-thing, plus a brief reflection on what I'll do differently the next time around.

The Good

Nearly 5,000 people downloaded a free Kindle copy of The Light Between Us.  A couple purchased a print copy, and a nice handful bought the Kindle edition after the freebie period ended.  It was ranked in the top 100 books in the free Kindle store, and was #1 and #2 in a couple of the free romance categories.  My expectations were exceeded by lightyears upon lightyears.  This is not just good.  This is really, really, really (really!) good. 

Also, my mother downloaded my book and read it in about a day, and then wrote to tell me that she loved it.  I can't tell you how much this means to me. 

And actually, she wasn't alone in reading The Light Between Us in a single day or so -- a number of you did.  Thank you and thank you and thank you for downloading your free copy, for reading, for the kind words you've sent me way, and for sharing my book with your friends.  I am deeply grateful. 

The Bad

I got a couple of less-than-glowing reviews.  This is not the bad thing -- opinions all over the map come with the territory of sharing your words with the world. 

The bad thing is that said reviews mentioned that my manuscript is rife with copy-editing errors.  After the first review, I scoffed.   

Editing errors?  I thought.  Are you serious?  I am a skilled writer and editor.  I graduated with honors in creative writing.  I'd never make the rookie mistake of launching a book that's less than polished, thankyouverymuch.

After the second one-star review, I stopped scoffing.  I went back into my manuscipt and started reading.

And -- felt my stomach plummet as I realized that those reviewers were right.  There really were a number of embarrassing copy-editing mistakes.  Missing words, misspellings, errant punctuations, and so forth.  And more than one or two.  

As Ruth, the protagonist of The Light Between Us might say, oh. shit.

(Humorous aside: one of these reviewers said that she was disappointed in my book's editing because my blog is so polished.  I almost never edit my blogs.  Shhh.)  ;)

The Ugly

Nearly 5,000 people own a copy of my book -- a book that I've just realized is, in spite of all my skills and editing efforts, rife with copy-editing errors.  That's not good.  This is not the ugly part, though.  

The ugly part is that this fact has filled me with shame.  My body is both weak and heavy with it.  My nerves are on edge, as if I've drunk a gallon of coffee (I haven't).  I want to hide and never stop hiding.  I want to weep.  I want to punch myself in the face.  I literally don't know how I'm going to look my family in the eyes at our Father's Day celebration later today.

(Grammar errors aside, these two reviewers also hated the story and/or characters.  Interestingly, this does not bother me at all.  I believe in my story, and have no qualms about others disliking the plot or Ruth or language choices or any of it.  Maybe the copy-editing stuff hits me so hard because that is something that's in my control?  And I do idolize my precious control.)

The Next

Okay.  Breathe, Beth, breathe.  
This is not the end.  You haven't killed your career before it even got off the ground.  

So, what's next?  Well, you'd better believe that I'm going back in for another round of copy-editing on The Light Between Us.  That's the beauty of indie publishing -- it's easily fixable.  I just hope that I don't have to eat too much grammar-flavored crow.  

And after that, I'm going back to work on my next novel.  I've mentioned it before -- a YA contemporary fantasy based loosely on Celtic myth involving magick, druidesses, and portals through time and space.  Oh yeah.  It feels like it'll be a much longer story than The Light Between Us (which is about 66,000 words, a short novel).  I'm currently 30,000 words into the Celtic-ish fantasy and am feeling like I'm only about a third into the plot.  Sign up for my newsletter if you'd like to get some sneak peeks sent to your inbox.  I might post an excerpt of two here on the blog as well.

Things I'll Do Differently Next Time

I plan on continuing to publish independently.  Because, well, I value that independence.  I make the rules.  And yeah, while that means that the burden responsibility falls on me when things go wrong, it also means that I get to keep all the profits and positives, too. 

I think I did pretty well for a first run, especially considering that I hadn't written a speck of fiction since 2010 before The Light Between Us.  But there are a few things I'd do differently:

  • Refuse to be a slave to the deadline.  I announced that my book would be available on June 14, and then thought I had to meet that deadline come hell or high water.  And when it became apparent that I could do with a few more days before launch, I thought I couldn't take those days.  I forgot that, as an indie publisher, I set the rules.  So I pushed to get the book out, rushed the last round of edits, and stressed stressed stressed.  Next time I'll just give myself the extra days.
  • Not get enough sleep.  I am a chronic not-sleep-enough-er.  I covet my time, and hate giving any of it up, even for something as important as sleep.  And I'm sure that this affected my editing capabilites.  Sigh.  Oops.  Sigh again. 
  • Enlist more editing help.  I had a number of talented folks beta read The Light Between Us -- but not for editing.  I thought I could do that all myself, and knew that I couldn't afford to hire a copy editor (a good editor, like this fabulous one, charges around $2,000 -- yikes).  But I was wrong; I needed more editing eyes.  For my Celtic-ish novel, I already have a manuscript trade lined up with a fellow writer, in which we'll swap books and tear them apart, both for copy-editing errors and plot/characterization/inconsistencies/etc. 
  • Consider not reading my reviews.  Or have my husband screen them for me, so he can point out what might be helpful criticism (like those reviewers who pointed out copy-editing issues -- as hard as that was to hear, it's also true, and I appreciate that, so thank you) versus the less constructive I just despise your writing opinions.  And yes, while I'd also miss out on reading positive reviews, I'm okay with that because I'm so hard on myself that I tend to have a difficult time truly believing praise.  Also, a dear friend pointed out to me that Brené Brown doesn't read her books' reviews and comments on her YouTube-d talks because the negative ones put her to bed for days.  And she's Brené Brown.  
  • Writing this blog post.  If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you've probably heard me talk about what a lifeline words are for me, particularly publicly processing my junk in this space.  So here I am, showing up, feeling the hard things, sifting voices, and writing my soul into sanity.  And now that I've finished, my body isn't vibrating as much, and I know this is going to be okay.   

Let me just say again -- publishing a book is terrifying.  And exhilarating.  And terrifying.  What a roller coaster I've been riding since baring my book to the world on Thursday.  Was my launch perfect?  Not by a long shot.  But I did it.  I did it.  And so can you.  That pie in the sky you've been eying?  It's not nearly as unreachable as it seems right now.  That ember of a dream you've been tending?  Fan it into flame.  Because it's important.  Because it matters, and you matter.    Because you can.  We can.  Let's hustle, and keep hustling.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be touching up The Light Between Us, and then diving back into my Celtic-ish creation.  In short, I'll be doing the work.   

What about you?

note: sometime between the time when I read the one-star reviews and now (prior to the publication of this post) one of said reviews disappeared.  not sure what happened there.  ah well.