Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How to Edit Your Own Book

Everyone will tell you that you should never edit your own book, because no matter how hard you try, mistakes will slip through. But if you are short the $500 or $800 or $1200 or whatever a hired editor will charge to do it for you (and they aren't perfect, either), here are some tips to catch most of your grammar and punctuation mistakes.

  1. SPELLING/GRAMMAR CHECKER: Okay, this is only a first step. Most word processing programs include these checkers that you can run at any time. It's best to wait until you've completed the text. No need to correct something you will remove later anyway. But these checkers come with flaws, often times suggesting the wrong versions of words (there and their, for example) when you know which is correct. So don't always trust their advice.
    Example of how MS-Word's punctuation checker isn't perfect.
  2. VIEW IT ON ANOTHER DEVICE: It's amazing how mistakes will pop right out when you view your work on a different device. For instance, load your document onto your tablet or smartphone and read it.
  3. TEXT TO VOICE: I personally use a few apps on my Android tablet (Cool Reader and PDFtoSpeech) to read back my chapters to me. I have it set so a UK voice named Oliver does the reading. Not only do I catch when Oliver misses a word (because I left it out), but his British inflection makes the book sound exciting! It takes it out of my own head.
  4. LEARN GRAMMAR/PUNCTUATION RULES: There are lots of nice books to help you with grammar and punctuation questions. Below are ones that I suggest. Google is also full of plenty of websites when you are unsure of how something should be properly written. I recommend Grammar-Monster and Grammar Girl. For spelling, word definitions, and synonyms, use Dictionary.com. There are a lot of rules, so if you are unsure, just type your question into Google Search. For instance, if you type "Ensure or Insure?" you'll find sites that will talk about the correct usage for each. Just avoid forum sites. Everyone seems to have an opinion, and you don't want to wade through discussions or end up with bad advice.
  5. FREE PROOFREADERS: If you have a friend or friends who love to read, especially those who are grammar Nazis, ask them if they'll take a look. Offer them a free copy of the final book in exchange. Try to get several friends to read your book.
  6. REPEAT: Each time you go through your book you will find more mistakes. The idea is to minimize and remove the most you can. So you should slowly read through your book at least three to four times. This could take months, but it's worth it.
Here are some of the reference books I've used in the past:

Painless Grammar (Barron's Painless Series)
Painless Writing (Barron's Painless Series)
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

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What You Need to Self-Publish Your Book

One of my self-published books.

There are a ton of companies out there who will, for a hefty fee, do most everything that you can do on your own to self-publish a book. Avoid them and save yourself a lot of dough. Here are the simple steps to creating and selling a self-published book using Createspace.com, which is owned and operated by Amazon.

  1. WRITE BOOK: Don't worry about anything else until you have completed writing a book.
  2. EDIT BOOK: Go through your book several times and check for grammar and punctuation. By this time you should have worked out all continuity and plot problems. This is the one time you would want to hire an editor or proofreader, or give several copies of your manuscript to trusted friends who will actually look for mistakes for you.
  3. DESIGN COVER: If you can't design your own cover, hire someone. There are specific technical requirements for a cover to look good when printed. If you want a generic cover, you can design one on Createspace with their cover designer and templates. If you are not artistic, this is really one time you should have someone else design your cover for you. Your cover is very important in helping you sell your book. Don't just slap something together. If your book has interior artwork requirements that you cannot do, you will want to hire an illustrator.
  4. FORMAT INTERIOR: If you can't format text to fit the size book you want and make it look good, hire someone to do that. There are several technical requirements. Also, while you're writing, NEVER use the tab to indent paragraphs (use Paragraph formatting), and NEVER use returns to force the text to a new page. Instead, insert a manual page break or section break. 
  5. BUY ISBNs:  If you want to own your ISBN (barcode numbers), go to myidentifiers.com and buy ten if you plan on writing more than one book. The total cost is about $275. If you only plan on selling through Amazon and Createspace, Createspace can issue you free ISBN numbers for your book. Regardless of whether you buy your own or use theirs, they will generate the barcode image for the lower right of the back cover. So there is no need to buy barcodes at myidentifiers.com.
  6. SUBMIT FILES: Create an account on Createspace.com. Use their step-by-step process to enter book information (title, author, description, genre, etc.) Once you have your book cover designed and saved as a .pdf, and your interior file saved as a .pdf, load those two files and submit them for review. Createspace will let you know if they don't meet their printing requirements. Use their online digital proofer to review the files, then order a PROOF copy to physically see what your book will look like.
  7. PROOF BOOK: Once you receive your proof copie(s), look it over. If you want, you can order up to five proof copies. This may be a good time to hand those proof copies to your proof readers to catch any final mistakes. If you have to correct them, you will need to recreate the interior and/or cover .pdf files and resubmit them.
  8. DISTRIBUTION: Once proofed, go to Distribution on Createspace and set your book price. Then choose where you want the book to be available. Amazon, Amazon UK, and Createspace will be selected by default. Expanded Distribution will get it on the Barnes & Noble website and make it available through other channels.
  9. APPROVE: Once you are satisfied with how your book looks, click APPROVE under File Review. Within hours (2-24) you will see a product page appear on Amazon for people to order your book online. So don't approve the book unless you have completely reviewed the proof copies and corrected all mistakes. Should you find mistakes after approval, make the corrections and resubmit the files again.
  10. BUY BOOKS: You can also order copies of your book to sell on your own by clicking on Order Copies to the right of the book title on your Member Dashboard. Order 20 or more to have them shipped via UPS and not USPS.
I am able to offer my services for most of the above. Email me at vic@victorrook.com for book cover design, interior formatting, and Createspace submission if you need help with that. I will write a post later on publishing Kindle and Nook versions of your book.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Please Stop Writing About Vampires and Zombies

As an author, I wouldn't want to deter any other author from writing about what she or he enjoys writing about most. It's your passion, and you have every right to let your muse take you wherever she, or he, leads you. But I'm beginning to feel my fist tightening every time I hear about a new vampire or zombie book (or movie). I want to punch the face of the next author who writes about them so hard that blood will drip off their lips like the demons they write about. (They'd probably like it.)

It's just that, well, the vampire and zombie genre needs to come to an end. BIG time. It's well past the "beat a dead horse" stage. It's so over done, so over talked about, so over featured, so over glamorized, so over over that it needs to just get the f*ck over so the world can move on to better things.

Last month I walked into our local Walmart and shuffled on over to the book section: that lone aisle—usually next to the discount DVD bins—that features books ranging from best sellers to romance, spiritual, and young adult. Mix in a few books on Amish life and titles for our Spanish-speaking residents and that pretty much sums it up. It's slim pickin's. Here are two titles that I noticed still touting the vampire genre.

I wish the book on the left was titled "The LAST Vampire Book." Praise the Lord!

First of all, I just don't understand the continued fascination. Biting and drawing blood is so mid-1990s (or 1800s, or 1600s). And zombies always seem to sloth around at a turtle's pace. I could order two Big Macs, eat them, and listen to an NPR segment before they'd reach my car window. I am not afraid.

I get it—authors know that vampire and zombie books sell. That there is still a market for them. I even had a person come up to me during a book signing for People Who Need To Die who specifically asked if any of the stories included zombies. I told him they did not. He purchased the book, but requested that I write in the dedication, "Enjoy the book, Zach. Sorry there are no zombies."

My beef is, shouldn't authors attempt to break new ground with their work? To be inventive? To not sell out? To use their imagination to create better things, better worlds, better stories?

If killing is your forte, there are much better ways than bloodletting and gnawing of flesh to off a person. I came up with a ton of tactics in People Who Need To Die. Like the sorority bitch who trips over a pylon in a newly paved parking lot at night and Graumans herself into the cement. Or the rap thug whose rogue car drives him to a parking spot known to reach scorching temperatures when the midday sun reflects off the nearby mirrored building like a magnifying glass. They found him sizzled in the front seat with his hands molded to his face like Edvard Munch's painting, The Scream. He bit the dust without anyone biting him.

I'd add Vampire Authors to my list of victims in More People Who Need To Die, but then I'd be breaking my own oath. So if you're an author, I am begging you to stop writing books about vampires and zombies and the apocalypse. I know I said I didn't want to deter an author from writing about his or her passion...but I lied. I'll deter and hope you detour around that tired nonsense and gift the world with something better.

I know you can do it.

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