Writing

Want to be a Serious Writer? Be prepared… it’s Expensive, But There are Some Tricks to Save Money

I have been honing and practicing my writing skills for nearly a decade. Along the way, I’ve had to spend money on editing, cover design, and marketing services. It cost a lot. I am not kidding.

I also fell into the trap of using “self-publishing” services, which were actually vanity presses. They offer publishing packages from hundreds to even thousands of dollars. And those books sell few to no copies. I would avoid those at all costs. And not just because of the pricing, but because of how they treat authors, take their money, and result in poor sales of their books. Try to use legitimate services where you just upload your materials, such as Amazon KDP or Draft2Digital. Both are free to publish on.

But it’s more than just that. I will return to the publishing and marketing topics after I discuss editing and cover design.

Editing can be pretty expensive. Some editors will even charge thousands of dollars for their services, especially if they’ve worked with big-name, bestselling authors. So, unless you already have the money, I would suggest avoiding those. There are editing services that charge moderate amounts. There are also beta readers, who are usually quite affordable. Many don’t price their services over $100. It may be worth using them for content editing.

Also, a lot of editors will be willing to split the payment plans. That might be useful if you don’t want to spend too much money at once. Another approach is not to get every single draft of your manuscript edited. I don’t just mean the sloppy first draft, but any draft you may feel needs more work… from you.

Everyone’s writing process differs, so the editing necessities will vary, too. If you’re new to writing, it may be challenging to improve your writing abilities without customized feedback. You can read books on the writing craft and more, but they could only take you very far. My suggestion would be to spend less on any unnecessary items outside of your writing time. Or take a side job and save your earnings for book production service.

Which brings me to the next part: cover design. Unless you have a great reputation in graphic design or illustration, it’s best to hire someone. But like editing, some may split the payment segments. Keep in mind your book’s genre and what cover design would be appropriate and attract more people. Regardless of that saying, everybody judges books by their covers.

Now back to marketing. If you self-publish on Amazon, you can price your book as low as 99 cents. If you do the select program, you can run a free promotion for up to 5 days. However, if you do KDP select, your eBook can’t be available anywhere else digitally, like your website or blog. You can also ask Amazon to make your eBooks perma-free by publishing them on sites like Barnes & Noble or Kobo, and making them free. This is an option if you publish through Draft2digital. Amazon may or may not price-match your book to other retailers. If you write a series, Amazon might be more likely to allow you to make the first installment free.

There are a lot of eBook promotion sites that will share free and 99-cent eBooks. And they usually cost less than $100. Maybe even $50.

So, there you have it. While being a writer won’t prevent you from spending a lot of money, you can still use these techniques to pay less.

Writing

Why I Don’t Title Chapters in My Novels

Contrary to what others have said, novels don’t need chapter titles. Okay, that may sound amateurish and you may be looking at me like I have five heads. But I did a Google search and the answer was that novels do not have have titles for their chapters.

That being said, it’s still a good idea, especially if you’re writing chapter books for younger kids. I write middle grade books, which is for mostly 8 – 11-year-olds. And now here is the answer to why I don’t title my chapters: too much effort.

Coming up with titles for anything, whether it’s a book, chapter, blog post, and so on, can be difficult. I struggled with brainstorming strong titles for my two published novels. Book 1 of my series has had two different titles while book 2 has had 4. Book 1’s original title was “From Frights to Flaws”, and many said it was weak or made no sense. So, after republishing the story as a new edition, I considered changing the title as the sales were still not satisfying. I came up with “The Frights of Fiji”, which received more popularity in a poll than “From Frights to Flaws.” 


Book 2’s original title was “Wizardry Goes Wild.” Like book 1, I republished it, but three times since when I published a second edition of it as “The Uncontrollable Curse”, despite the changes I had made, the reviews were unsatisfying. So, I made major edits to it and then republished it as a third edition titled, “The Unruly Curse.” Once again, sales weren’t good, in spite of the better reviews. That was when I finalized on the current title, “A Curse of Mayhem.”

Basically, I feel it’s too much work to give my book chapters titles. If you’re writing fiction, chapter titles are optional, unless you work with a commercial publisher and they make you title your chapters. However, I think chapter titles are necessary if you are writing non-fiction, whether you submit to a traditional publisher or you choose to self-publish. If you title your chapters, remember to be creative and don’t be afraid to ask for help, even privately.

Writing

Unpopular Writing Opinion: Why I Wish Readers Would Accept Any Time Setting in Stories, Regardless of Publication Date

When I say any time setting, I mean any time setting. I firmly believe that authors should get to set their stories whenever they want and readers should accept and deal with the time setting. I don’t agree with the ridiculous rules that authors should only set their books in contemporary settings or historical settings, but nothing in between.

It all started out when I wanted to update my book, “The Frights of Fiji,” then titled, “From Frights to Flaws,” and I sent it to an editor. Throughout the manuscript, the editor kept complaining about the years mentioned and the fact that the story was set in 2010, even though it was first published in 2013. They seemed to tell me to update the setting to 2018 since many middle grade readers then were babies or really little. I was very offended and told them I highly disliked someone telling me when I could or could not set my stories. Then the editor felt me and said that they supported my idea of setting my story whenever I wished and that they wouldn’t tell writers when they could or couldn’t set their stories. That year-change was merely a suggestion. Yet, they also pointed out how kids today wouldn’t be able to relate to pushing buttons on phones. Um…hello? They’re going to be reading books way more primitive than that. Definitely for school. They’ll read books where candles were used since electricity didn’t exist, horse-drawn wagons were the main means of transportation because there were no cars. They’re even going to read stories where pants didn’t exist and men wore robes and togas, like in ancient times, B.C.E.

Also, must I mention that it was not until the 7th “Harry Potter” book was published that I discovered that the characters were much older than I thought. I had grown up thinking “Harry Potter” was set in the 2000’s thanks to some hints from the movies, which I watched before the books. But when “The Deathly Hallows” was published, I discovered that the events of the series happened in the 90’s, from when before I was born up until I was 4 years old, excluding the epilogue. Yes, it was a shock and disappointment at first. But I eventually got past it and accepted it, especially since the first 3 books were published in the 90’s. And no, it wasn’t because J.K. Rowling was a very big-name author.

Even on a website, someone pointed out why “Harry Potter” was set in the 90’s, and said that it could’ve been set earlier, but no one would relate to it as easily. Once again, kids have to read books like that for school. And I’m sure there’s a reason why English curriculums often require stories set too early for students to relate to. It’s probably to learn the differences. Do you think a lot of school kids now or even 30 years ago could relate to characters, like Tom Sawyer or Romeo Montague? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy it, even if they have to read it. When I was in school, there were very few books set around times we students could relate to. One I remember was “Rabbit Hole”, which I read in 12th grade. There was a scene with a video cassette, which suggested that the story couldn’t be set later than the 90’s or early 2000’s. While it felt a little awkward, it didn’t keep me from enjoying the story. Plus, it was required, so I couldn’t stop. I still liked the story, as it was.

Another time, after I republished “The Frights of Fiji” in 2018, I sent my sequel to be edited, as well. Once again, the editor removed the year I stated in it, 2010, and said it would make the story outdated. Bull poo. I even told them why I stated the year it was set. The editor said that authors can set their books whenever they liked, however, it should only be stated if important, otherwise it’s distracting. Garbage! The first book had already been published and the year, 2010, was already written as its time setting. So, I had to say the year book 2 was set.

When I started a post about this on a writing forum, while a few took my side, others did the opposite. They saw the idea of a book being set in 2010 and published in recent years as a bug and being awkward. When I said that changing the year would mess up dates and events, they saw that as nonsense. They picked it up differently than I intended, though. In book 1, my MC’s 13th birthday plays an important role. It also has to fall on a Saturday, and in 2010, her birthday, April 17th, fell on a Saturday. Had I changed the year, I would have had to either change her birthday, or make it a different day. But between 2013 and 2018, hundreds of people have already read the book’s first edition, so it would have looked bad to change the year setting.

Another person on that forum said that unless a story is centered around a certain historical event, like 9/11, it should not be set post-2000. Bird poo. And some other writers agree. They said that it would be hard to market a book set many years in the past without a reason. One writer said that a book published today that is set in 2006 without a reason looks bad. Another said that authors shouldn’t date their stories. They should be contemporary all the time and that readers should get to fill in the year themselves. Bull poo again.  

Why can’t readers see older settings from this century as a chance to learn more about those years? Seriously, what’s wrong with learning about things like flip phones, DVD rental stores, and other “outdated” ways of life? It really shouldn’t hurt. Readers should see books like that chances to be educational in terms of learning the differences of life then versus now. A book set in 2006 and being published around now should be acceptable in mainstream publishing. There’s nothing wrong with learning anything. Of course, that is as long as it’s not harmful. After all, we do or did have to learn history in school. And that is to learn not just how life was different than, but also the mistakes or bad decisions people made so that we don’t do those ourselves.

To me, fiction is only outdated if it’s offensive, such as the use of racial slurs or the damsel-in-distress trope. Basically, anything that would be insensitive to people today shouldn’t be used in writing. But years? Big deal. Authors should get to date their stories, set it in whatever years they wish, and readers should be more open to that. I wish that’s how it would be.

Writing

It’s All About Revisions

Everyone who writes needs to revise sooner or later. Well, actually—it would be better if he or she waited until the draft was at the end. I even tried finding out ways to rewrite the last draft of my novel as soon as I completed it. I kept getting stuck.

I read pretty much every relevant article and even asked for help on a certain forum online. Everybody who responded to the thread said that I should give myself more time.

And they were right. While I successfully made a list of ideas for my next draft, I couldn’t actually start writing the next draft until recently. So, no writer had exaggerated about that. You do need to give yourself some time away from your WIP. Many writing experts suggest at least a month or two—often times, even more. But I didn’t really have several months.

I was going to submit the WIP to a certain editor, but I had to have that delayed due to just starting a new draft.

All right, maybe that’s enough backstory. I probably revise like most writers, although I often rewrite my stories long before I finish them. I try not to now, but I did before, because I was constantly getting bored with my writing. I started my current project four years ago, but for the first two years, I couldn’t finish a single draft. I would get bored by the tenth or eleventh chapter and give up. It was not until January 2018, that I discovered my actual writing process. That was when I could write an entire draft without quitting before it ended.

Now here’s a fun fact: I sometimes revise individual paragraphs. How? I wait a little, copy and paste that certain paragraph to another word doc, rewrite it there, and then copy and paste it to the main document.

Revision processes differ from person to person. So, you might revise in a way that wouldn’t necessarily work for me.

Writing

Your Story Might Work with Fewer Words

Image from Pixabay

Sometimes, less is more with writing. If you write regularly and have studied the craft for years, you may have heard the term, “kill your darlings”. That means you should eliminate anything in your project that isn’t necessary, whether it’s content, like a subplot, scene, or character, or unnecessary words.

This was a big struggle with my own writing. In my early writing days, I would write too little. However, as my skills improved, so did my ability to produce more words in my work. Little did I know that a good number of those words were not needed.

This was especially an issue with my series’ second installment, “Wizardry Goes Wild”, which is now retitled “The Unruly Curse” and has been given several changes, including…a shorter word count. I’ve discovered, when editing that story, that nearly 20,000 words weren’t necessary. Reviewers had even complained about the writing, and I’d thought they had been crazy, as it’d felt perfect and flawless to me. In fact, I’d thought it’d read like a traditionally published bestseller.

Anyway, due to the unsatisfying reviews (but not enough that the overall rating was poor or even just neutral), I pulled “Wizardry Goes Wild” off the market and edited it. I had eliminated 13,000 words and republished it as “The Uncontrollable Curse”. In spite of the reworking, the reviews were, at most, just as unpleasing, if not, more.

That was when I got a content edit from an editing service. Although this wasn’t their idea, I removed two chapters from the story. They didn’t serve much of a purpose.

When I republished book 2 the third time as “The Unruly Curse”, the readers gave better reviews than the previous times.

So, remember, always read through and edit your work, as well as have someone else do the same. And I suggest it’s NOT somebody you know personally, as he or she may be biased and afraid to hurt your feelings. After all, your story may need fewer words than you might realize.

Writing

Music Makes Editing Much More Fun

Image from Pixabay

Who doesn’t love music, regardless of genre, mood, and everything else? I like to play it when I do chores, sometimes drive (only when I stop, of course), and when I edit. But not just any kind of editing—the text-to-speech kind.

Yes, your computer probably has it—if it’s a more recent model. And you know what? It’s a huge savior for spotting spelling, grammatical, and pretty much every kind of error. At least for me, it is.

While I don’t usually play music when I’m having text-to-speech reading for shorter documents, they make a big difference for longer documents, like novel manuscripts.

Before I discovered music makes the reading more pleasurable, I would use text-to-speech for one chapter a day. And that would take forever. Then, came along my discovery for music playing when using the text-to-speech feature. Boom! I had a grander time editing and would have the voice read at least a few chapters. I sometimes didn’t want to stop.

What kind of music do I play, you may ask? Pop, showtunes, and Disney—but in instrumental versions, like piano pieces. Lyrics would probably distract me. Plus, the tunes still sound great on the piano, if not, better—sometimes.

Reading your work aloud always makes a difference and you can spot errors more easily. But if your voice is tired or you’re in public, just look up how to use the text-to-speech feature. Then sit back, relax (and wear earphones if in a public setting), and enjoy your text being read to you as well as music on your computer (or phone if you are at home and you can play things without earphones). Yes, you can have more than one form of audio on your computer. I’ve done it before. What do you think?

Writing

Publishing When You Think You’re Ready, But Really Aren’t

I’ve had such a bad habit of publishing when I thought I was ready, but really wasn’t. Now I have a bunch of books on Amazon that are unavailable, but sadly, still listed because hardcopies stay on retail sites forever. Now I have given myself a rule to not publish paperbacks unless my reviews are great, not just good or decent. But that’s another post.

Before publishing my books, I have pre-tested them to see if they received satisfying reactions. They have. But after I published them, while many reviews were good, the overall ratings were not amazing.

That’s what you want when you publish fantastic, wonderful reactions. I’m not exaggerating. I’ve experienced receiving just good enough reviews. And believe me, they aren’t as satisfying as they sound.

So, now I have a second version of one book published and a third version of that story’s sequel on pre-order. It took me seven years to find my writing voice and for it to mature. I’ve had a habit of wanting to share my stuff with the world, even if it was no good. Now I’ve learned to hone and make my works the best they can be before letting anyone see them, unless it’s for editing or critique.

So, before you get excited about letting the world see what you’ve made, pre-test it with others, and see if the feedback is excellent. I mean that. If it’s only okay, you’ll regret your decision later. So, take your time with your ideas.

Writing

Deny, Rethink, Accept, and Write – This is a Part of my Writing Process

Every writer needs an editor, even the most talented ones. And no two editors are alike. They do different services from critiques, content-editing, line-editing, copy-editing, and proofreading. They also have different editing styles and reasons. That is why I have gone through too many different editors. Many have been helpful and rational, but a lot have also been too controlling and even turning my words into their own—practically making my stories their own. I have never used them again.

However, when they give constructive feedback, there comes a process that I often go through: denying, rethinking, accepting, and writing. I could call it DRAWing.

I often love what I write, even if it’s unnecessary or serves little to no purpose to my content. When an editor asks me to change or cut something I admire, I will often deny his or her recommendation. This is natural as I don’t want to believe him or her.

After a little while, though, I do rethink the editor’s suggestion. I consider why he or she said that. Often times, it ends up making sense.

Unless it will screw up the story or any major material, I usually end up accepting the request at some point. Sometimes I even twist a suggestion. For example, if an editor asks me to remove an unnecessary element, such as a character, I will figure out a way to make it important. This has worked at least a few times.

And then the final step, obviously, is to keep writing. Some stories are not meant to be enjoyed or sold, though. I’ve learned that a little too late. I have published five books, but only one is available to buy. The other four weren’t exactly good enough for the market. However, I had not realized that years before. I’d even pretested them with pre-publication feedback, and they got mostly positive feedback.

This process still applies to me now. It probably will forever.