What’s with the Cover Art?

I have received several comments about my book covers. Although some of you noted that you like my designs, others haven’t been as kind. They’ve said that they passed by my books because they were looking for covers with steamy romantic scenes, they didn’t like my art work, or they think it makes them look like young adult books — which they are definitely not. All of the above may be true, but I wanted this writing project to be done based on my own skills. Since I love to draw, I decided early on that I would create my own covers. Although some of the typcial steamy covers make you drool, I would have to hire out to get that kind of art work on my books. Alas, I promised my husband to keep my costs down to a minimum, especially since I wasn’t sure if anyone would be willing to buy any of my books. By the way, I added an adult warning on the description of the series in hopes to inform any potential readers of the intended reading level of my books.

Why did I chose masks as my main theme?
My books are about a character named Tianna who is on a journey of self-discovery. With the blood of multiple races flowing through her veins, she struggles knowing who she is and her purpose in life. The masks represent her ‘trying on’ the different parts of herself, searching to find the hidden nature that best represents who she really is. Truth be told, I also thought that if I ever had paperbacks made of my books, it would be cool if the masks had reflective eyes that would watch you as you passed by the book rack.

For grins and chuckles, over the next few blog posts I’ll provide my thoughts on how I designed each of my covers. Let’s start at the beginning of the series.

Cover Art for Book 1 Unquiet Slumber

Unquiet Slumber Cover Art

Unquiet Slumber Cover Art

I started with a mask with closed eyes to show that Tianna is unable to see who and what she really is. The black background represents the darkness she is trapped in with the vines, gray spotted background, and the claw marks representing parts of the nightmare that she’s been haunted by all of her life. The mask is edged by part of the Faye symbol that is etched on her back.

Tianna's Faye Mark

Tianna’s Faye Mark

This image was given to her in a dream and she has no idea what it means. As a reader of the series you know that the Faye part of her is starting to emerge in order to help her embark on a long and hard journey where she’ll be forced to face all of her slumbering natures that are waiting to awaken.

Checking In

It has been quite a while since I posted to my blog so I thought I would give you a quick update on what’s happening in the world of Blue Fire. Actually, I’m working on my blog all of the time, wading through hundreds of spam messages every day trying to find any real comments. Spam fascinates me.

  • Spam topics seem to come in waves. At first it was fake designer purses and perfumes. Then it shifted into payday loans and Viagra. Now it’s hitting all kinds of fake drugs. OMG, you would think these people would have better things to do with their time.
  • They try feebly to hide their real intent… which is for me to inadvertently post links to their sites. Their tactics are quite creative. Sometimes they post sticky sweet “I love your blog” messages or they try the other end of the spectrum and generically argue with the blog’s content. This they do without ever directly mentioning the blog’s content. It’s all a game to get me to accept and post the message so that when some innocent person clicks  on the message, they are navigated to some crazy site. Their “hidden” links are blatantly obvious so off to the spam bucket they go. At times, they do make me chuckle.

Putting spammers to the side, I want to thank all of you that have sent me real messages. I enjoy reading every one of them and I would be happy to respond to any questions you may have about the series, characters, … whatever is on your mind.

So, where am I in the series?

  • I have published book 4 “Night Embraced” on Amazon. I hope to push to all other retailers very soon. So far the book has been well received and it THRILLS me to know there are those of you out there that are reading it and enjoying it. For those that read book 4 (or any book in the Blue Fire series) but it wasn’t to your liking… thanks for taking a chance and giving it a try. I hope you continue your hunt to find that special book/series that you can’t put down.
  • I am actively working on book 5 “Death’s Dawn”. This is one is especially hard for me, knowing it is the last of this series. People have asked me if I really mean for it to be the last one and my response is “Yes”. My storyline was set for a 5 book series and that is where it will end. Too many series go on beyond what they should and they need to learn to say enough is enough.  I wish movie series would learn that lesson. More is not always better.
  • Before you ask, I don’t have a publish date set yet for book 5. This summer is a tough one for me. While working full time, I am also dealing with two children heading off to college – – one undergrad, one graduate school. We are moving my daughter into her first home as well as preparing our own home to be sold so we can downsize. We built this home and have had many  happy memories and years of collecting ‘stuff’ so it’ an emotional process. This isn’t leaving me much free time to just sit back and write.

I am going to try to get back to this blog and begin sharing some of the ‘secrets’ behind the story… such as the meaning of my book covers. I hope you will come back and join me on my last leg of my writing journey.

Twisted Path is Ready and Waiting

Well I made one more step. Book 3, Twisted Path, is now available on amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Path-Blue-Fire-ebook/dp/B009Z2MT1M/. Based on initial feedback, I’m thrilled  to learn that those that joined my series’ Facebook page have opted to continue reading the series. Their thoughts mean more to me than any numbers in a sales column. But then again, if sales were my goal, I would have given up this crazy bucket list project a long time ago.

I learned a great deal from writing my latest book. Here are a few things that went right…

  • I stopped worrying about what others think. Write what’s in your heart and let the story flow naturally. I do have to admit that now that I have a few people following my series, I’m nervous when I publish and worry that I’ll disappoint them. It was much easier to push the publish button when you don’t really expect anyone to be waiting on the other end.
  • I put my trust in my editor. When you find the perfect editor that believes in your work, trust their feedback. It’s a partnership and they can see things that you, as the writer, are blind to. My story is so much better with her guidance and I won’t publish a book in this series without her writing wisdom. Thanks Courtney!
  • I utilized a few more beta readers before I published. I tried to find ones that would look at the book from different angles.  In previous books I had a very limited number of people I let read the story before it went out. I was too afraid to hear what they thought. I changed my tune with Book 3. This time I asked a group of around 8 readers and, in my 340 page book, only a small number of markups actually overlapped across readers. It was a fascinating process and I welcomed each and every comment!
  • I let my husband watch the sales numbers. One minute up, next minute down…it makes you dizzy. On down days it made finding the motivation to continue the series difficult. So I’m going to just do what I love – – write – – and whatever is going to happen will happen. I’ll let my Math PhD hubby crunch numbers.
  • I utilized KDP Select program on Amazon for the first 3 months. Unlike other retailers, my books are holding their own on Amazon and I know that has to do with the boost I get on Amazon free days. For people to actually read my story, they have to find it first. I’m finding that anyone will download something for free, and maybe a few of them will like it and tell their friends. In one free day, I get more downloads than all of my other sites combined – – by a long shot. I think Amazon does it right.

Things that I’m going to do differently in the future…   

  • I’m going to find even more beta readers. The more the better, in my opinion.
  • I’m going to stop looking at the books that fly by me in popularity. Obviously explicit erotica and violence seems to be in. First off, these types of books are NOT romances and shouldn’t even be listed in a romance category. I don’t know why eBook retailers don’t enforce their own categorizations. I want to read books that build real relationships based on love, not degrade women and assume we all long to be abused. “sigh*
  • I’m not going to utilize  Smashwords  for publishing to Barnes & Noble. Although they do a great job publishing my book to many retailers, such as Apple’s iBooks, I’ve had trouble getting the books on B&N. When they do show up, I have to fight with some formatting issues. I want more control so I’m planning to manually publish book 3 directly to B&N through their PubIt site. I’m also going to go backwards and do the same for books 1 & 2.  

I’m now busy writing book 4, Night Embraced, which I hope to have published in the Spring. It’s truly amazing to me just how much time it takes to go from idea, to words on a page, to publishing…but it’s a daily labor of love. I’m 105,000 words in and have a way to go. Wish me luck.

The Saga Continues

It has been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything so I thought I would take a minute to let you know how things are going.

September was a good month for me on Amazon. In the month of September, I sold 220 copies of book 2 (at .99) and had 1815 copies of book 1 downloaded (for free). So my experiment to see if my numbers would change if I listed book 1 free worked. It is odd to think that there are thousands of people with my books sitting on their Kindle. If any of you that downloaded my book for free are reading this blog, I want to thank you for taking time to select my book. You could have passed me by. I hope you enjoyed it and would consider reading the other books in the Blue Fire series.

Speaking of publishing, I just pushed book 2, Sleeper Wakes, to https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240386. They will in turn, send out to several other ebook retailers, such as iBooks, Nook, Sony, etc. I don’t do well on Smashwords. Their readers seem to prefer short stories. My books peg their ‘Epic’ scale. Oh well, I write what is in my heart and won’t shrink them just for the sake of sales. Sales doesn’t drive me anyways. I live for the few ‘likes’ that appear on my Blue Fire Facebook page >> www.facebook.com/bluefirenovels. Knowing that someone read and enjoyed my story thrills me more than words can say. If it wasn’t for them, I would have quit this silly project months back. Now I’m driven to finish the series for the few that have expressed their interest. I just hope that I don’t disappoint them.

In my goal of completing the series, I have given my initial draft of book 3, Twisted Path, to my first beta reader. This book is a little shorter than the others (112,000 words versus 139,761 (book 1), 161,974 (book 2)) so I am going to let my beta readers share their thoughts on the storyline and its length.

The Blue Fire series is one long story that I split into 5 parts/books. I split the story at what I considered logical spots. This approach made each book different in length – – each containing what I needed to say to paint that part of the story. I thought about adding more to book 3, like adding extra stuffing to my pillow, but I recently read a book review for book 2, Sleeper Wakes, that said “…The greatest appeal about this book is that it’s not “loaded” at every turn. The author gives enough background and setting to give a clear picture of the world Tianna is in but not so much as to overwhelm the senses.” Keeping that in mind, I refused to just add content for the sake of length. I expect book 3 to grow during the editing process, but I am going to let my beta readers determine what and where.

I did have a chuckler happen today. I went out to Amazon to see where I was ranked in the free book list. By the way, I was listed at #35 at the time in the Romance > Fantasy category. I bopped around the free list to see what other books were available. I happen to click on one that the description mentioned dragons. Being a big dragon fan, I took a peek. After closer inspection, I found it was a story that wasn’t exactly what I had in my book library. Ooops. *blush* I then scrolled down on the book details page and saw the “Customers Who Bought This Items Also Bought” section. There was my book “Sleeper Wakes” tucked in cozy as could be between books with the following titles >> “Coming of Age”, “Hiding out in his Sauna”, “The Substitute Wife”, and “A Trip to the Dark Side.” These all had gorgeous men on the covers and were listed as Gay Erotica. Hmmmm. Maybe I have an unexpected audience base (???). Although surprised, I welcome anyone willing to read my story.

I have decided that my next few blog posts are going to focus on each of the main characters. I want to share my thoughts on how each character came to be and I hope you will stop by again to take a peek.

What a crazy week!

In an attempt to spread the word about the Blue Fire series, I offered Book 1, Unquiet Slumber, for free at all ebook retailers. Amazon doesn’t allow you to price a book free but, at their discretion, will price match. After several requests, on Saturday morning, August 25, I awoke to find it free on Amazon as well. Then the fun began.

Within the first day, a book that at .99 was selling maybe one a day (if that), suddenly had hundreds of downloads each day. It is now exactly one week later and I managed a total of over 1300 downloads. In addition, this triggered book 2, Sleeper Wakes, to sell 70 copies.

During the week, I would come home from work and my family joined me in monitoring the numbers. We watched as my book counts took their effect. It was like watching a horse race as the books positioned around me would move up and down in rank. Sometimes a book would come out of nowhere and race by all of us, while others dropped out of sight. Knowing that people rarely scroll to later pages, we cheered as the book appeared on page one and moaned whenever it dropped back to page 2. I would yell at a book as it passed me by and let out a laugh when I would pass them again. The whole scene was ridiculous since none of us had any control on what was playing out in front of our eyes. I couldn’t help but wonder if other authors were doing the same thing as me.

My book is in the Romance / Fantasy category so it was also fun to watch as it got later in the day and books with half naked people on the cover slowly crept up in rank. Obviously time of day had an impact on what people were looking for. *blush* A college statistics class would have a ball trying to capture all of the trends.

Besides Amazon, I monitored my other retailers. Another milestone occurred this week on the Apple iBook store when my book, which had received a total of twelve 5 stars ratings on their site, received its first 1 star. *sigh* Although I know not everyone will like my books, as an Author I can’t help but wonder what this person didn’t like. They offered no review so all I could do is speculate. Was it too long? Badly written? Expected a different book? Too much spice? Not enough? Although if they had provided the specifics, it probably would have made me cry. However, not knowing drives you insane!

Then in another twist, odd reviews appeared for book 1 on the Barnes and Noble site. It looked like several were using my book review section as a way to communicate. I felt like I was living in a spy novel when the following cryptic message appeared between Greywolf and Lilysole  << “Runs up. “Hello!” She mewed. “We moved camp. We are at silver fire. Meet me there at second result.” >> Obviously they were planning a secret meeting. See for yourself at B&N site.  B&N is having some issues. If you see only 2 reviews, then click the “sort by” link located below the list of reviews and select another sort order. It should repaint and show all of the reviews. I have sent them 2 emails so far asking them to fix the problem with no luck.

As part of the KDP Select program, on September 14, Book 2 will be offered free for a day. I can’t wait to see what will happen. Maybe nothing – – may it will be a great day. I can say that I will be watching as the race continues.  I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

ePublishing… what the hey?

This post is written to anyone out there that has considered publishing an ebook and doesn’t know where to start. Although I’m far from an expert, I’ll share my personal publishing experiences.

When I was trying to decide where to publish, I played around on several sites…PubIt for Nook, lulu.com, KDP for Amazon, smashwords.com, and the list goes on. I found Amazon the most straight forward by far.

  • KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing at https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin) provides an easy to follow, step-by-step publishing flow and, once published, offer up to the second reports on how my sales are doing.  Even my husband is addicted to checking my latest numbers.
  • Amazon offers the Author Central tool where I,  as an author, can easily post my bio, pictures, and anything else I want to communicate. I haven’t figured out how to do this on the other retailers’ sites yet. I know it’s there somewhere but dang if I can figure it out and my tolerance for ‘digging’ on the Internet is about 5 minutes max.
  • Amazon offers KDP Select, which is a free, optional program that requires your book to be exclusive to Amazon for 90 days. It offers several nice features but the one I liked the best was the 5 free days.

Since I had decided to publish initially on Amazon and I had no idea what I was doing, I decided to enroll in this KDP Select program. I had nothing to lose.  After I pressed the publish button and told my family I had a book out there, I was thrilled when I could watch the ‘Number Sold” column click to a number other than zero. But after all of my family and friends showed their support by purchasing a copy, the sales slowed to a slow drip. Then my first free day hit. I came home from work to a ‘Downloaded” number over 250. I screamed and quickly called my best friend and editor, Courtney, who screamed as well. I spent the evening refreshing the screen to get the latest numbers and to watch my book move up in rank.  In the end, I had 347 downloads and made it as high as 18th free book in my category. Many may laugh at those numbers but I cried for joy. Downloading a free book doesn’t mean they actually read it or liked it but it does mean it’s swirling around in cyberspace. Someone in the UK might be sitting in a sidewalk cafe and reading my words right now.  How cool is that? Maybe some of them will find they like the story and tell their friends, and so on…

I have read other author sites that say KDP Select isn’t worth it because it forces you to be exclusive. What they didn’t suggest is how about starting out on Amazon and take advantage of the KDP Select program to get the word out. There is no long term commitment and after the 90 days, you can publish to other sites. That’s what I did. I recently published book 2 and utilized the program again and I’m very pleased by the results.

Amazon isn’t perfect.

  • KDP won’t let you set your standard book price to free. Free days can only be offered through KDP Select. They will consider price matching a free price from another retailer but only at their discretion. I tried this for book one and I was denied.  I think I’m too low on the totem pole to be considered.
  • For 0.99 priced book, they keep twice as much per book than most other sites. For a 0.99 book, I get 0.35.
  • If you send them an email question they’re not quick to respond and not always very friendly. In their defense, the other retailers aren’t any better. What ever happened to good customer service? I guess you have to be someone to get to be treated like you matter.
  • Amazon’s ebook style guide isn’t great and doesn’t help you prepare very well for the digital world.

Now here’s my plug for www.smashwords.com… a site I recommend you consider as a publishing option.

  • The style guide provided free from smashwords is a wonderful resource to help you figure out what to do or not do with your Word document to prepare it for publication.
  • They also do a much more thorough check of your book before publishing, which can prevent you posting formatting crap on accident.
  • They will publish your ebook to other retailers for a small fee per book. I didn’t have to do anything addition and my book popped up on Apple, Sony, Nook, etc. Very cool!
  • They will let you set a book’s default price to free.
  • Watch out if you are looking at the books available on this site without selecting a category and you have the adult filter turned off. This retailer seems to be quite popular for very explicit erotica.  Wow! There are some really creative writers out there. *blush*

In the end, do whatever works for you. I’m going to stick to starting on Amazon’s KDP Select and, after the 90 days, utilize smashwords to continue to spread the word to other ebook retailers.

Free or not free? That is the ebook question of the day.

I personally think the Blue Fire series is a good story that many out there would enjoy. In reality, without a marketing campaign, it’s impossible for people to even know my series exists. I dare anyone to be able to find them without knowing my name or the exact title of one of the books. Even using the exact keywords the books are associated with, it can’t be found. I’m just too far down on the list. I have several other items working against me…

  • I’m a new, unknown writer with just a few followers.
  • In the digital world, my books are way too long – each falling into the epic category. I’m not going to change this. The length is determined by what I want to say and I like to talk…a lot.
  • I have no publisher so no one has my back. I wouldn’t even know how to approach a publisher and, right now, I don’t want to deal with the inevitable denials that most books get when starting out. I want to keep this hobby fun.
  • My book covers are artistic and include no naked people, which is a serious drawback for a romance novel. But my story isn’t focused solely on romance and each of my covers have meaning (that I’ll explain in later posts). I’m also not into drawing people so I had to stick with something more symbolic.

My first marketing approach was to use the ‘It’s cheap!” campaign. Although .99 cents is a bargain for any book, it appears the low price isn’t as big a draw as I had hoped. I decided to change to the drug dealer campaign… give the first book away, get them hooked, and then offer the next books in the series for a price (be it a cheap price). With this in mind, I set out to make book 1 free. I first went to my Amazon KDP authoring site and found that they won’t let me post my book as free, except on approved free days within the KDP Select program (great program that I will discuss in a later post). I sent them an email asking if they would price match as they have done for other authors but I was denied. *sad music* I also publish from smashwords.com. They had no issue with me changing the price so book 1, “Unquiet Slumber” is now free on their site. They then turned around and communicated this price change to the retailers they publish to on my behalf – -Barnes and Noble, Sony, Apple Store, and other select retailers. None of them had issues with my free price.

Did this change have any effect? Well, thanks for asking. Since I’m thrilled when even one person selects one of my books, I was overjoyed with the results. The hits on my series Facebook page is going steadily up. On Barnes and Noble, my book went from 400,000+ in rank and just days later it was at 43,000. Also within days, I’ve had over 79 downloads on smashwords.com and it was added to 5 personal libraries. It doesn’t match the stats for 50 Shades of Grey but I couldn’t be happier. Maybe some of my readers will like it and consider later books as I continue to publish the next parts in the series. The other retailers I won’t know until smashwords posts a monthly report. I’ll share the results.

So to answer the original question, “Free or not free?” If you are a novice writer like me, my answer is go free – – even if just for a little while. If I win the jack pot and the interest in my series continue to rise, I can consider putting a price back on it. For now, I’m going to let book 1 swirl around the free book cyberspace pond and see if a few people get hooked on the wonderful world of Lagrangia.

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

Within the Blue Fire series, I had very specific images in my mind for the various tattoos, marks, and weapons. But since I’m new to the writing world, I lack the writing vocabulary that I needed to properly describe these features. Instead of using the keyboard, I did what came more naturally to me… I grabbed my sketchbook and started to draw. With sketches in hand, I debated on how best to incorporate my artwork into my Word file. Although I’m comfortable with paper and pencil, the world of digital art is completely new to me. Seeing my frustration, my husband came home one day with a scanner. That allowed me to transfer my art into the digital world but, no matter how much I fiddled with the scanner setting, the images didn’t come in as clean as I would have liked. I was going to need to do some online digital editing.

When I asked others for advice, they told me that I should use Photoshop and get a digital stylus. They said, “You can then just draw directly into the software,” as if saying the words would make it as easy as using my paper and pencil. Their theory was confirmed when I went online and found videos that showed beautiful artwork being created in a blink of an eye. Since it looked so easy, I decided to give it a try.  My husband, once again, took care of me and fed my addiction by buying me a Bamboo stylus, which came with Photoshop Elements and Corel Painter Essentials 4. He also brought home the full version of Photoshop. Yes… my writing hobby, which wasn’t supposed to cost anything, quickly headed into the red. I know that my limited book sales will never allow me break even, but…oh well. I’m completely hooked and can’t stop now.

To make a long story short, digital art is really hard and those in the videos are aliens from another planet. A stylus is NOT the same as a pencil—not by a long shot, and Photoshop is…let’s just say… beyond intimidating. I’ve never used such curse words in my life. I know the tool can do tremendous things but first you have to be able to find the feature and then you have to decipher the millions of settings, of which none of them use terms I understood. I tried using tutorials people have posted on YouTube but I banged my head against my desk in frustration, trying to replicate their actions. For Tianna’s wrist mark included within book 2, Sleeper Wakes, I have no idea how I did it the coloring effect. It happened on accident while I was just clicking around and I can’t seem to replicate it. Ugh! I like it, so I kept it.

Once my images were ready, I couldn’t figure out what  file type to use. There are .gif, .jpg, .png, psd, and the list goes on. Initially I decided on .gif files but quickly ran into issues. Although .gif seem to be the smallest in storage size, the picture quality suffered when converted into the book’s final format. I switched to .jpg.  Given my lack of abilities with Photoshop, I gave up on the background transparency issue so my images have white squares behind them. If my books ever become popular, I’ll have to learn how to fix this and republish with better, transparent background images. I’m sorry if these blinding white boxes drive you crazy while reading my story in a night mode on a reader.  I think all my cover art turned out great and I am fond of the mask I used to represent my series. I think I am getting better.

Since I have just published book 2 and have 3 more books to finish—including artwork—I  picked up the local community college catalog. I guess it is time to teach this old dog a new trick and learn the world of digital imaging. Look out Photoshop class…here I come. I’ll let you know how that goes. :o

If you would like to see all of the images that I’ve published so far, take a look at http://www.facebook.com/BlueFireNovels. I’m trying to add a gallery to this web site but I’ll have to wait for technical support — my son — to set it up for me. I’m technically pathetic!

Sweet or Spicy?

For me, a good romance book is a combination of sweet and spicy with the intimacy intertwined within a real story. Now that I’m writing romance books, I’m finding that’s easier said than done. There’s also a difference between making something a romance versus turning it into erotica.

Just like adding spices when cooking, everyone has their preference as to how spicy they like their romances. It can range from the teenage, “He’s so hot,” (*eye roll*) to hard core adult where every other word needs to be bleeped out (eeeek). I want to be somewhere in between. After much trial and error, I’ve learned that it’s all in word choice and, as a writer or reader, you have to come up with the language that you’re comfortable with. You have to draw your own line in the sand.

I just finished reading a romance that, during its most erotic scenes, it included the following phrase >> “…a  strange hybrid between a ‘need to pee’ sensation and pleasure.” I may not be an expert on this, but I don’t think ‘pee’ should ever be used when you’re trying to paint a romantic moment. Ewwww! Here’s another favorite >> “…licking off her juices.” OMG! Is she an orange? I couldn’t go for the Harlequin “heaving bosoms” either. Then there are the ones that give you an anatomy lesson and hit you again and again with crude terms. I don’t need to be reminded what all of the parts are called and the use of crude terms may bump it up the shock/erotic scale, but it does it at the price of making the romance side tank.

The first time I tried to write an intimate scene, I looked around an empty room feeling like I was doing something very wrong. Mothers aren’t supposed to write things like this. To get over this fear, Courtney — my good friend and editor — told me to follow a technique that they use in acting. She suggested that I overwrite the scene, exaggerating the romance, and then it would be easier to pull the scene back to a level that I’m comfortable with. She was right. I sat down and wrote pure smut and, as I played, I ‘drew my line in the sand’ in terms of my romantic vocabulary. This also got me over my fear of writing the words. Now I look forward to the intimate scenes and I’m having a great time trying to come up with new and interesting ways to paint my target mental picture. By the way, in honor of the typical Harlequin romance, within book 1 Unquiet Slumber I make reference to the mounds of Tianna’s breasts heaving. Try to find it. 

I think I’ll continue to use chef Emeril Lagasse’s cooking approach when I’m adding spice to my story… “Let’s kick it up a notch.” and…”BAM!”

Writer’s Blindness

Here’s a question for you…Can a writer edit their own work? Well, maybe some can, but I believe most can’t. I fall into the ‘can’t’ category. When I read what I’ve written, I find myself auto-correcting mistakes within my mind. I call it writer’s blindness. I know what I intended to write, hence, that’s what I see. It’s ridiculous. I can look over a paragraph many times, and yet, someone else can look at it for a few seconds and find a mistake. Once identified, it sticks out to me as if it had a big neon arrow pointing to it. I’m left dumbfounded and feeling like an idiot.

So what’s the answer?

  • If you don’t plan to publish to the world, don’t worry about it. Just write and have fun.
  • Hire an editor… assuming you have the money to spend. I want to self-publish so I can share my story with others, but I know the odds that I’ll actually make money is about the same as me winning the lottery. I promised my husband to keep my writing hobby on the cheap so hiring a professional wasn’t an option for me. Another cheaper option would be to hire an English major at a local college. They may be willing to edit just for fun, food, a Walmart gift card, or for a line item on their resume. Most English majors actually love applying the zillions of grammar rules. Ewwwww!
  • Read out loud. You would be shocked how much you can find when you listen to the words. In my first book, I had a paragraph that I had mentally read over a hundred time. Then when I read it out loud, I listened to myself say the word ‘horse’ over four times within one sentence. Ugh! To make this approach even more fun, I read sections of my books to my husband or daughter every night before bed. I get some great editing done and it has turned into one of my favorite times of the day.
  • Listen to your book. I use an extremely easy to use software product called Audacity, which can be downloaded free. I record myself reading a chapter and then play it back. Once you get past the ‘I don’t really sound like that, do I?’ stage, it’s a great way to find storyline mistakes. I found that I liked doing this so much, I’m working on posting my books as pod casts.
  • Ask people around you. You would be surprised how many of the people you see every day would be willing to help. I enlisted a small group of friends and asked them to provide feedback. This does require there to be trust between you and your team to get honest criticism and not just “I love it just the way it is.” What fascinates me the most is that each one provides me a dramatically different perspective based on what they look for in a book. While some help me with where to put that stupid comma and auto-correction mistakes, others read for story line and character development. Now I can’t imagine publishing without gathering their thoughts first. I’m addicted. As a thank you, I try to incorporate something especially for them into the story… a situation, a phrase, a character name, etc. This way when they read the book, they can find these hidden treasures and say, “Hey, she wrote that just for me.”

Find what editing approach works best for you. Although I still feel stupid every time they find an obvious mistake, I now celebrate every defect found. My editing team has help me mold my story into something that I’m proud to share with others.