What happens after the story is written? Do I immediately publish? How do I promote my story?
Is all the writing advice driving you insane?
Maybe this episode can help.
Welcome to the Write Focus, a podcast for writers at all levels who want to improve their skills. Headed up by M.A. Lee with the assistance of Remi Black and Edie Roones, all from Writers Ink Books. We focus on process, productivity, craft, and tools.
A transcript of this and other episodes can be found on thewritefocus.blogspot.com. Write to us at email@example.com.
This episode—in fact, the whole Write Focus blog and podcast—developed after an email conversation with a newbie writer asking questions. Find our blog at thewritefocus.blogspot.com.
From start to finish, from the seed of the idea to the published story in a reader’s hands—we have six basic steps.
Sketched ideas. Rough draft. Revised Draft. Those are the first three steps, briefly covered in our third episode. Now we’re looking at editing, publishing, and marketing.
Editing is the 4th stage. (1:15)
Editing is often confused with Revision. The purpose of both processes is to improve the manuscript. Editing, though, works at the word and sentence levels. Finding stronger words, vivid verbs, better ways to phrase sentences. Working in metaphors and avoiding passive voice, that’s all editing. Adding emotional conflict, that’s revision. Tweaking the pacing of events, that’s also revision. Revision works at the plot and character levels. Editing comes after Revision ends.
Some of editing is sentence craft. Metaphors. Climatic ordering of sentences. Juxtaposition to present contrasts. That’s a whole series of lessons. Check the show notes for a great resource.
Then we enter the Proofreading ROUNDS.
Read the first time for plot holes and character discrepancies. Keep the MasterBook close to the manuscript. Correct those. Proof a second time for content. Correct again. Proof backwards; Correct a third time. Let the MS sit, a week or more. Proof forwards, page 1 to the end. Correct again.
We’re not finished with Proofreading. Now we enlist other eyes. New eyes are necessary. We’ve been working with this thing from its first seed. Before the first seed ever formed, really. We need someone to read like a reader, not read like a writer.
By the way, no one is 100% perfect. Mistakes will slip through. The purpose of all of these Proofreading Rounds, however, is to avoid as many mistakes as possible. Even traditionally published books, especially in the last 15 years or so, have quite a number of grammos and typos. Publishing companies in their first rounds of job cuts fired their copy editors first.
Once we have the manuscript back from the other eyes, correct one last time.
Now we reach Stage 6, Publishing.
Publishing includes formatting the manuscript, getting a cover, writing the book description or blurb, and creating a marketing plan. This last stage is the writer’s BIZ stage that everyone moans over.
You may want an ISBN, an international standard book number. As soon as the novel is in final form, it’s copyrighted. However, I advise that writers apply for an official copyright. To prosecute plagiarists or take down book pirates, we need a registered copyright.
To publish, we must format. When I started my epic writing journey, I thought formatting would be hard to learn. Nope. If you understand a word processing software, then formatting will be simple. Follow the basic MS guidelines for setting up your MS. First, distinguish between main titles, chapter sections, and normal / body text.
Stick with common fonts. You need to follow the paragraph box rules, especially no Widows and Orphans, paragraph indent, and spacing of lines and paragraphs. These matter. Don’t give the reader a jerky reading experience.
Add page numbers to help when you print out the MS for editing. You will need to remove the page numbers before publishing in the ebook format.
Then you also need to determine how to break between scenes in a single chapter.
Write your front and back matter. Model it based on actual paperbacks on your bookshelves. Yes, even electronic documents need those opening and closing elements. The front matter includes your copyright notification and disclaimers, a list of your titles, and any acknowledgements. I usually put my Table of Contents at the beginning. Back Matter thanks the reader, asks politely for a review, lists titles along with a brief description, including any Notes to Readers about the research, and much more, such as a teaser for the next book.
Most online distributors, like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords and Draft2Digital will have templates that offer suggestions for layout and design, including margin sizes and more. Pay attention to these to bring your MS into alignment with their guidelines. These online distributors will take your standard font and convert it to their standard ones.
Cover Design is a sticky subject. Good cover design has multiple layers. The book’s genre is actually the first consideration followed by the series brand and then the author’s personal brand.
Licensed digital images including releases for cover models are required even when you create your own cover. The world of graphic design has a whole series of considerations beyond the BIZ aspect of licensing.
- Proportion and Contrast
- Foreground vs. background
- Thumbnail considerations
- Chiaroscuro, which is the interplay of light with dark
- Appropriate fonts for genres along with font sizing for title / author / subtitle / taglines
And much much more. Research the competition in your genre. Can you do that well? Or will your cover standout as amateurish—thus, affecting the buyer’s view of your book’s contents?
As writers, we have NANO seconds to capture that 1st look. The 1st look is the cover. We want the browsing reader to pause and read our book descriptions. A good cover will do that. While you’re getting a handle on the writing side of the business, a pro cover designer can help with this publishing side.
After the cover design comes the book description.
Start with a tagline: a catchy one-liner for the book. Then a couple of sentences to describe the protagonist. Write 2 or 3 more about the conflict in the first chapter. Then a couple of questions. Don’t go deeper than 20 pages into the book.
Readers buy based on surprise and curiosity. Keep that in mind for book descriptions. That’s one of my Newbie Writer Mistakes, which I covered in the first episode.
If you want more help with book description, check the show notes for a link to a great course by Dean Wesley Smith.
The last step of Publishing is Marketing.
When you only have one manuscript on the market, don’t spend a lot of money on ads. Advertising only prospers those writers who have a strong back list. Spend the first money on a great cover design. As you start selling and publish your second book, you can spend a little money on launching. Gradually increase the budget with each published novel.
The best advertising for your first book is the second book.
Build that backlist.
Marketing includes having a social media presence as a writer, creating simple posts for launch day or book birthdays, having a launch plan, creating ads and video trailers, and more.
A launch plan will have a cover reveal, book description reveal, first chapter teaser, and meet the characters teaser.
People will talk about social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more. They will say that you need a website.
We can do promotional posts very inexpensively. Free sites like Blogspots offer a starting website that you can learn. Facebook pages and a Twitter account are free – the money comes with buying ads. You don’t need ads yet. Remember, the best advertising for the 1st book is the 2nd, and for the 2nd book is the 3rd one. Learn the platforms. When you’ve a backlist, then go for ads.
Don’t spam the airwaves. When you post, have more than your book to talk about. Draw back the curtain just a little bit on your personal life. Leave the curtain in place, well lined, not as sheer fabric. Don’t reveal too much. Why? Well, see the previous episode covering Horror Stories for writers. When we reveal too much, the problems that arise can be devastating. Lost readers are not the greatest problems. Writers do have stalkers.
Some people want all the social media set up before publishing the first book. That can be overwhelming and interfere with your writing time. Find 1 account on which you can easily respond to readers and leave the other sites alone until you have a backlist. Gradually build the other accounts as you write more books.
Carefully monitor your writing expenses. Don’t bankrupt yourself expecting a huge payout from one book. I would wish that success for everyone; however, luck is the primary denominator ofsuccess.
We’ve completed this series of episodes. Coming UP: Well, What’s In a Name? That’s next Wednesday on The Write Focus.
Remember to check the show notes for links and this episode’s transcript at thewritefocus.blogspot.com.
If you find this podcast helpful, please drop a comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for joining in The Write Focus. Write on.
Dean Wesley Smith’s WMG courses on Teachable https://wmg-publishing-workshops-and-lectures.teachable.com/courses
Discovering Sentence Craft covers figurative and interpretive concepts as well as the structural elements that build meaning, emphasis, and memory. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07ZQXKY87
Concepts >> I: Figurative / II: Interpretive
Structures >> III: Inversion / IV: Repetition / V: Opposition / VI: Sequencing