[Podcast] Tips on Editing for Self-Published Authors

If you’re self-publishing a book, you don’t want your book to look self-published. That means you need to pay close attention to the editing phase. Editing for self-published authors is different than when you are traditionally published.

That’s because you are responsible for the editing: finding the editor, evaluating the editor, and evaluating the edits of the editor.

We sat down with Jennifer Bisbing, author of Under the Pines, a book critic and editor who shared her insights into the self-publishing journey. Jennifer, who studied literary criticism in graduate school, provides tips on editing for self-published authors, and which services an author should allocate their money toward. 

What Is an Editor?

When it comes to a remarkable editor, an English degree isn’t the defining characteristic. (We know—it sounds counterintuitive!)

An editor should be well-versed in storytelling as well as structure and idea development—not just the mechanics of writing.

So, how do you find a well-rounded editor? 

Jennifer’s number one recommendation: Read and review other books your potential editor has edited.

As you research into your potential editor’s book list, ask yourself the following questions: Has this editor edited multiple books? (In this case, Jennifer advises, “quantity is important.” You want an editor who has dozens, if not a hundred books to their name!) Are their books well-written? Structurally sound with a well-developed plot or idea? Has the editor won any awards? Has the editor written and published a book?

Take Jennifer’s advice and find an editor who’s knowledgeable in the world of writing and publishing books.

The Editing Services Self-Published Authors Need

One of the pros to traditional publication is the guarantee of an editor to copy edit and proof your book. Also, at its most basic level, traditional publishing provides credibility to an author’s book. Self-published authors also need credibility, so you need to publish a near-perfect book. Sans typos. Sans grammatical errors. 

Let’s break down the different types of editing services for self-published authors.

A developmental edit focuses on the big picture of your book. This editor checks the details in your story, makes sure these details support your plotline, and confirms your plotline works efficiently. A developmental editor will also check the pacing, structure, and development of your idea, in the case of nonfiction. What’s the biggest payoff to a developmental editor? They understand the big picture of your book, and then help you pull it together.

A line edit succeeds a developmental edit. A line editor checks your sentences—do your sentences flow well? What cadence does your story follow? This editor will also concentrate on the finer details of your book. Do your characters remain true to their personalities? Is your dialogue accurate to what your...

[Podcast] Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing: Which Is Best for Me?

“Is traditional publishing for me?”

It’s a question all writers ask at some point in their journey. And the answer depends on each individual. We interviewed Jamie Weiner, author of The Quest for Legitimacy: How Children of Prominent Families Discover Their Unique Place in the World, who has both self-published and traditionally published a book. In our interview, Weiner shared the pros and cons of his individual publishing experiences.

There’s no one right way. You might go the route of traditional publishing for one book and the self-publishing route with another. There’s no right path. But there are a few guideposts to help you make your decision on your book writing journey.

Responsibility vs. Independence

Publishing houses are like banks: they want a return on their investment, your book. Because they are in the business of producing and selling books, they have refined the process so it is as efficient as possible. While the entire process is managed for you—editing, designing, printing, and distribution—you might be surprised by the limited interaction you have with the publishing house. Yours is one of many books to be published.

Because a publishing house provides a copy editor, a cover designer, and a marketing and distribution team, you don’t have to find—and vet—a team of professionals (which, let’s be honest, we might not trust our instincts to pick the best for the best final product).

The flip side? With self-publishing you have more control over the process of the book. You don’t have to wait on a publishers release date (which can sometimes be years after you submit a proposal). You don’t have to defer to their creative process. You can control the pricing and distribution of the book. You can control the audio rights.

Simply, you have more control.

Creative Control

The most alluring aspect to self-publishing is your ability to control the creative process. We’ve worked with authors who have fought with their publisher on titling and cover art. One publisher wanted to replace a conceptual (and catchy!) title with a purely descriptive title (because, they said, it would be better for SEO). Another author was provided cover designs that used stock imagery. Yawn.

While some traditional publishers take your creative feedback, they won’t always. Ultimately, the final decision is theirs.

With self-publishing, you have complete reign over your creative vision. You will determine when your book will be published, what cover design looks best, how your book should be organized, the contents (references, appendices, glossaries, etc.) to be included, and more!

Publishing houses also have heavy sway over your material. Do you want to include a prologue? Your publisher might not allow for it. Or, they might demand it, even if you don’t think it needs it.

That being said, most publishing houses are open for discussion if you have concerns. In...

[Podcast] How to Reframe Publishing

What do you think of when you hear the phrase “published author?” Do you imagine a writer who has published a book? Or a writer who has published an article in a magazine?

Most writers dream about traditionally publishing their work. They want their words to be shared on a grand scale. But traditional publishing isn’t necessarily the best route for your writing.

In this blog post, we will teach you how to reframe publishing, and share how your writing can improve with a new mindset.

Traditional Publishing—Why Writers Desire It

Traditionally, publishing refers to the creation and distribution of printed works, like books, newspaper articles, and magazine features.

When writers imaging being published, this is most often what they envision. A byline proves they credibility. No doubt, traditional publishing is a form of external validation. There is something fulfilling about being selected by an external publisher. While we might believe that a traditional publisher will provide a larger audience, the truth is there are many authors who publish non-traditionally with much larger audiences. They’ve built large audiences from faithfully publishing regularly in non-traditional ways, like blogging, posting to social media, or podcasting.  

The flip side it true, as well. There are many writers who publish traditionally and are never read. There writing simply isn’t good (yes, even bad writers are published traditionally).

A writer can feel like they’re “part of the elite few” if they traditionally publish. But remember it’s just a feeling.

The Imposter Syndrome can never be solved through external validation, though. It is something most writers will struggle with the entirety of their writing lives.

How to Reframe Publishing—Why You Need to Change Your Mindset

A good writer needs a purpose bigger than simply “being published.” And as Stephen King said, “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.” So, how do you find your purpose? One way is to reframe your views on publishing.

The word “publish” comes from the Latin word “publica” which means, to be made public. If we focus on this definition, then publication can include submissions to digital magazines, presentations via webinars, and even posts on social media.

In each of these cases, you become the publisher.

Isn’t this why we publish? Because we have words we want to make public? Words that can influence, educate, or tell a story?

Reframe your desire to publish and you will have a better understanding of why you write.

Why We Publish—The Benefits of Non-Traditional Publishing

When you reframe publishing, you can take a more active role in your publishing life.

Depending on the source...

[Podcast] How to Land a Book Deal and Market Your Book

When you’re writing a book, two questions first-time writers most often ask are: How do I land a book deal? and How do I market it so it is read?

We sat down with Robin Zachary, author of Styling Beyond Instagram: Take Your Prop Styling Skills from the Square to the Street, who shared her roundabout path to landing a book deal and how she plans to promote her book to increase sales immediately following its release and also in the years to come. 

In this blog post, you will learn the best approaches to land a book deal, and how to market your book to increase book sales.

All You Need is a Connection

Publishing houses receive dozens, if not hundreds, of manuscript submissions a day. Their process of elimination is brutal and quick. And if you don’t make an immediate impression, your manuscript will be rejected. The rejection doesn’t mean your book is “bad,” it just might not be a good fit for a particular publisher, as Zachary found out.

At a conference for creatives, Zachary attended multiple workshops and seminars with published authors who shared their experience getting published. Most of them said, “The publisher found me.” Zachary wondered, “What about the rest of us?”

Later at the conference Zachary sat down with a publisher who expressed that her book idea wasn’t “publishable.” Tough words. So tough, Zachary decided she likely would self-publish the book and use it as a teaching tool. 

But things quickly shifted when she had a chance meeting with an acquaintance at that same conference. Zachary shared her idea, and her friend said, “That sounds like a book the publisher of my book would be interested in!” A few weeks later, Zachary’s friend reached out for a book proposal she could pass on to the publisher.

Often the best way to land a book deal is through a connection like this. It’s a warm introduction. The person acts as a proxy for trust.

That being said, you also should be looking to ways to nurture relationships and support people you know. Give without the expectation of gaining. You just never know when you might receive a gift in return.

Attend a Conference

Many people attend conferences and writer’s workshops with the expectation that they will find an agent or land a book deal with a publisher. But often these workshops are intermediate steps to landing a deal. View these gatherings as opportunities to learn from other people’s experiences, learn more about the industry, make connections, and share your unique ideas.  

 You might not land a book deal, but you’ll create valuable relationships—that might pay off like they did for Zachary. You never know who might have a connection!

Market Your Book to Your Ideal Audience

While you’re writing your book, you need to begin to think about how to market your book to increase sales. In fact, even as you write your book you should be...

[Podcast] How to Get an Editor's Attention

“I have a manuscript, but is it ready for submission?”

Maybe. Maybe not.

There’s no magical formula for what will catch an editor’s attention. Sometimes editors just follow their gut.

But with years of publishing experience under our belt, we know a few things about what manuscripts catch the attention of editors—and which ones are trashed.

Check out our 8 must-dos to get an editor’s attention.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road—Writer’s Guidelines

One of the most basic yet important steps is to follow the guidelines established by publishing houses. Guidelines are your guide in getting one step closer to being published. This is a step you can’t skip, but aspiring writers often bypass.

Publishing houses have varied and strict guidelines on how to submit material. Before you submit a manuscript, research the houses you want to reach out to. Determine whether there is a specific word count, a letter to be included, or other necessary guidelines to be completed before submission.

If you have a personal connection who can get your work in front of an editor, you may be able to bypass this step. If not,  your writer’s guidelines are your first step to making the connection!

Editorial Grid

Publishing houses have their own niches. And they have a definitive audience in mind whom they want to serve. This is true for magazines and book publishers. It’s important that you recognize what stories the publishing house is interested in. Figure out what they want. If you don’t have material that fits into the house’s niche, don’t waste your time on a submission.

If your material does relate, then think about the audience the house wants to serve. Ask yourself: “Who is their audience? Is my manuscript a good fit for this audience? Do I have an expertise that would benefit their ideal audience?” Make sure your material provides some sort of value to their audience. And in the pitch letter (if they ask for one), make sure to reference your understanding of their target audience.

Hook ‘Em to Win ‘Em

Editors are drowning in unsolicited manuscripts. If you want yours to be the one that pulls them up for air, you have to hook them.  Your  first sentence/paragraph of your manuscript must breathe some energy into the editor—at the very least, make them think “This is fresh! And they can write!”

Editors have limited time. They scan the first paragraph and might skip to the conclusion. But they typically will not read the middle. You don’t have time to build up to some dazzling insight or prove you have writing chops.

One caveat: when writing your opening, stay away from clichés—ideas and phrases. Clichés reflect unsophisticated thinking and writing. Find a unique angle on your subject.

Also, create some tension that demands the editor’s attention.

If you’re looking to pitch an article, do some...

[Podcast] What To Do When Your Book Is Rejected

What if I told you that your dream will come true and you’ll publish a book? 

Now, what if I told you it will take 14 years before you get published?

That’s bittersweet, right? Jennifer Risher, author of We Need to Talk, a memoir about wealth, attended multiple writer’s conferences and rewrote hundreds of manuscripts for her book. And she was rejected each time. It took her 14 years before she would be published.

In this blog post, we talk about what to do when your book is rejected—specifically  how you can use the time to improve your writing and thinking for a better book.

Rejection Is Not the End of Your Story

Rejection can make you feel like your story “isn’t good enough.”  But don’t let it dampen your passion for your idea. Jennifer believed she had a story that needed to be told. Her constant rejection—partly due to publishers’ bias about her topic, wealth—further solidified her belief that she needed to share her story. Rejection might have been a setback, but it didn’t permanently derail her. She chugged along for 14 years, rewriting her manuscripts, improving her writing, and fine-tuning her thesis until she published her book.

Too many people give up on their story too soon. Refer to our talk with literary agent, Adria Goetz, who’s heard of people facing a hundred rejections before connecting with a publisher. Sometimes it’s the 101st time that is the big breakthrough.

Do you believe in the story you’re writing? Do you believe it needs to be shared? If you answered yes, then keep writing. Rejection is not the end of your story.

What to Do When Your Book Is Rejected: Ask, “Do I Have a Solid Thesis?”

There is a payoff to 14 years of rejection—other than finally getting published. You’re offered time to get into the weeds of your book. To improve your writing.

Embrace the opportunity to mature as a thinker and writer.

If your project was rejected, consider redefining your thesis. All nonfiction books—memoirs included—must include a meta idea, or thesis. It’s the main focus of your book! It might be why you were rejected. Jennifer came to realize, during her years of rewrite, that she lacked a solid thesis. Her book did not have a purpose other than for her to emote her experiences. She realized she needed to define, sharpen and refine her thesis.

To define your thesis, you’ll need to reconsider your core audience. You may find that your rejected manuscript was written to a general audience. You’ll want to position your writing for your minimal viable audience. Ask yourself: “Who am I writing this book for?” Specify your audience based on your answer. This will help you determine what subject you’re writing on.

What To Do When Your Book Is Rejected: Redefine Your Narrative Arc

Once you’ve determined your core audience, consider your narrative...

[Podcast] How to Get Published in the Harvard Business Review and Other Prestigious Pubs

“How do I get published in the Harvard Business Review…or another prestigious publication?”

For many business professionals, this question is always at the forefront. To get published in the Harvard Business Review or other top tier publications is to feel like you’ve made it. You’ve got credibility.

But, if it were easy to do, everyone would have a featured article. It’s not easy.

We sat down with Rose Hollister, author of Nobody Told Me and a consultant who specializes in business performance onboarding, to talk about how she got published in the Harvard Business Review,  Forbes,  and MIT Sloan Management Review.

Connections Build Success

Forbes, Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, receive dozens of submissions every day. And they discard dozens of submissions daily. So, what submissions snag their attention?

Familiar names. Writers whom they have worked with prior. Writers whom they trust and whose work is acceptable.

If you’re name isn’t familiar, work your network. Connect with published writers, build solid relationships, and then share your ideas with published writers.

Rose did just that. Early on in her career, Rose was introduced to Michael Watkins, a published, best-selling author who is also published in Harvard Business Review. Rose made an effort to get to know Michael, and once they became close acquaintances, she started to share her ideas with him.

One day, while at a client site with Michael, Rose shared another one of her ideas. Michael approved of the idea and when Rose returned to her home that night, she wrote down her first draft.

She didn’t dawdle. She committed to her idea, completed the first draft, and sent her copy to Michael. They entered an agreement to co-write a piece. A piece that would be published in Harvard Business Review.

Learn from Rose. Step out of your comfort zone, be friendly, and network your path to publication.

Don’t Miss the Opportunity

It’s easy to think an idea to death. And never actually get started writing.

When Rose shared her idea with Michael and received his greenlight, she immediately started writing. She didn’t hesitate. She didn’t question whether or not she should—or could—write a piece for the Harvard Business Review. She took initiative of the project and put in the hard work.

When opportunities come your way, seize them. Don’t allow self-doubt, perceived lack of experience, or fear control your decision. When you’re presented with an opportunity to write or co-write for a significant publication, accept it!

It will require significant effort on your part. And if you’re working with one or more co-authors, you will encounter problems between partnerships. But the payoff is worth it.

Co-Writing—What You Need to Know

When you finally receive the opportunity to publish in a prestigious magazine, you might encounter the difficulties of...

[Podcast] The Four Cornerstones of Self-Publishing

“Is this vanity press?” “Are you going to control the rights?” “Do I have to pay a lot?”

These are common questions writers ask when considering self-publishing.

We spoke with Steven Spatz, President of BookBaby, who answers all these questions, and offers four cornerstones to self-publishing—including one that too many authors never put into place.

BookBaby is a self-publishing services provider. They give every bit of advice, tools, and access to the marketing place that a writer needs. Here’s the best part: they never take control of your book. You maintain full autonomy.

As Steven puts it, “You’re the contractor. We help you out with the subcontractor, the roofer, the plumber, and we help you get your book out into the marketplace. But you never lose control over your book.”

You retain creative control. Financial control. And legal control.

So, why else should you consider self-publishing? What benefits do you reap? Continue reading to learn more.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

In traditional publishing, you have a team of experts helping you chug along. So why shouldn’t you have the same for self-publishing?

The answer: you deserve a team too. Publishing a book is not something you need to do alone. In fact, you shouldn’t publish a book by yourself.

You deserve an editor, cover designer, and other professionals to review your book. You also need somebody who can get you into book stores and help you distribute your book.

 You need a professional team, like BookBaby, though there are many other self-publishing service providers. Look for experts experienced in publishing. Pay for their services, or enlist the help of others whom you know with the experience you need. This will guarantee a successful self-publishing experience.

Editing Is Your Best Friend

You’ve likely read a self-published book riddle with errors a stiff proof would have caught. This is one reason self-publishing has been regarded as an inferior publishing method.

Readers want a quality book with few mistakes. They’re spending their money and time to read your work. Give them what they want, and what you deserve: a great product.

Your book should be the best version of itself. Which means you need good editing and a great design.

You can’t avoid editing. It’s foundational to all publishing. And you can never proof too much.  When your book is ready and you’ve proofed it a hundred times, print out a physical copy and proof it once more.

It may seem tedious but proofing a physical copy of your project will prove useful. Our eyes grow lazy after staring at a screen for too long. And you also scan rather than read. You will miss stupid mistakes. But with a physical copy, you’ll find these mistakes much easier, because you slow down. At the end of the day, you want to submit a near-perfect copy of your work.

You also want a compelling design for your...

[Podcast] The Ways and Means of a Literary Agent

"How do I find a literary book agent?" is one of the most common questions of aspiring writers.

Literary agent Don Gates, founder of The Gates Group, has a few ideas. He says that he, like most agents, looks for books that publishers would be interested in. These books have this in common: the 3 C's. 

You might have one or two of the three C's covered. But do you have all three? And what can you do if you're lacking in a particular area so you're more appealing to an agent?

Read on.

1. Concept. Every book is governed by an idea--or a thesis. And while there isn't really such a thing as a "new" idea, literary agents are looking for ideas that can be packaged in a fresh way. 

What are the stories and illustrations (your unique perspective!) that make the idea seem new?  How you package the concept will grab the attention of a literary agent.

You need your hook to be clear and engaging from the get-go--even in your titling.

If you land a literary agent, Don says they'll often work with you further to polish the idea for the publisher.

2. Crowd. We all are a little tired of the word "platform." But it's true: literary agents take a close look at it. That's because publishers look for it. Publishers are looking for writers to help them sell books.

Do you have a significant social media following? A regular speaking circuit? Or are you a leader of a large group? All of these (sometimes a combo of these) will make you look more appealing on paper. The groundwork is there to start selling the book.

3. Content. Some people can put together a compelling proposal but are terrible writers. That's why literary agents want to see a chapter or two of your writing.

Agents are looking for writing that will make someone say, "I want to read more." The first chapter is everything. This is how you sell your book.

Think about it. You can read one chapter on Amazon. Or, if you're at a bookstore, a person could feasibly read one chapter to get a feel for the book. After reading that chapter, the reader has to make a decision: Is it good enough to spend $15 or $20 on it?

If the writing is great, the chances are greater they'll fork over the cash and continue to read. And if they continue to be pulled into your story, they'll likely refer it.

And that's how a book becomes a bestseller month after month: when it transforms someone and they want others to be transformed by it too.

 For more insights by Don, listen to the full episode now.

[Podcast] Tech Founder Dave Parker on the Whacky Economics of Book Publishing and Promotion

By Dave Goetz and Melissa Parks

Writing a book can never be about the money. No realistic model for book publishing exists, unless of course, you hit the lottery with your first book. 

According to Dave Parker, author of Trajectory Startup: Ideation to Product/Market Fit, the economics of book publishing and promotion are whacky--especially with a traditional publisher.

You sign a contract, but the publisher sets the price. And how much you'll receive for royalties? Once it's published, you won't know until you receive your royalty check.

Another drawback, Dave says, is you can't buy author copies that count toward your overall sales (the sales that determine whether your book is being purchased, and therefore ranked on Amazon). Dave has created a workaround for making his "author" copies count. He purchases books by the bulk from a distributor for a discounted rate. 

The Publisher Doesn't Care as Much as You Do

That's just a few of the complexities of working with a publisher when it comes to sales. But there are more complexities when it comes to marketing your book.

Dave learned you can only expect so much of your publisher when it comes to marketing your book. No-one cares as much about your book's success as you do.

He likens publishers to venture capitalists. Out of 100 venture capital investments, 10 are successful, 35 are mildly successful, and 65 are zombies or die quickly. 

You're one of many authors the publisher is working with. They're hoping for the "10" (or one) that that will hit the bestseller category. And the book with the greatest momentum most often gets the most attention from the publisher. The others are left to fend for themselves. Those who don't know how, might as well be called the walking dead.

When you take an interest and ask the publisher, "What should I be doing?" they state the not helpful ("Keep doing what you're doing.") or the obvious ("Promote the book through your platform."). You end up in the same place as someone who self-publishes: you have to figure out the marketing of your book. Nobody is going to do it for you.

You can't just hope your book will sell. According to Dave, "Hope is not a strategy." If you want to actively sell your book and build a market, you need to take ownership or promoting your book. This often starts while you're writing the book.

The Fanboy Strategy

When Dave landed a book deal with a traditional publisher, he had a robust platform. Over 3000 people view his blog monthly, even if he doesn't post anything new. He has thousands of connections of LinkedIn. And he speaks regularly. But Dave says his following didn't know him as a book author. He had to prep him for that in the months he was writing the book.

He even worked on getting endorsers for the book while he was writing the book through a method he calls "fanboying." He would comment regularly (and thoughtfully) on the blog posts of thought leaders in his space. And because...

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