Self-editing a Story: What it Takes

Woman typing on laptop
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Independent publishing takes perseverance, time, guts, and high self-esteem. It also takes money if you need to hire people for services such as book file setup, cover creation, and editing.

I’m fortunate that I work as a professional editor in my day job and that I have graphic design experience. Because of these skills, I am better equipped than some indie authors when it comes to setting up my own book files and creating my own covers.

Editing is a HUGE step in publishing a novel. Reader reviews can be brutal, and nothing spells amateur quite like publishing a book full of grammatical errors and typos. Of course, no one is perfect. Even major publications will have typos. It’s just inevitable. Thankfully, there are tools and strategies to help. These are a few things I’ve learned.
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Indie Author Marketing

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Part of being an author is marketing. Both traditionally and independently published authors have to deal with a lot of our marketing efforts. We have to maintain websites, keep our social media accounts updated, speak at events, and just generally sell our writing—our voices. By nature, a lot of writers are naturally introverts, which creates a bit of a dilemma when we’re required to promote ourselves.

Indie authors face the unique challenge of marketing with little-to-no budget. And unless you’re Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, even some traditionally published authors face the same problem. We must handle a certain amount (or all) of our marketing on the budget set forth by our day jobs. That’s right—most indie authors have a day job to pay the bills and write during our limited free time. Some might be fortunate enough to have a spouse or significant other who can pay the household bills and allow the writer to pursue their craft full time, but this is rare.

So, what do I do to advertise? I maintain my website and try to publish blog posts regularly. I try to post regularly on my Twitter and Facebook pages. I review all the books I read on Amazon and Goodreads. (How can I ask for reviews if I don’t write them myself?) I’m still resistant to starting an author Instagram, but that might be something I do soon. I hold book signings at a local indie bookstore during some of the quarterly art walks (when there are more people downtown) and hold sales on the Kindle versions of my books periodically.

I rely on word-of-mouth and book reviews more than anything because that type of advertising is free. It’s one of the reasons I am often asking people to post reviews of my books on Goodreads and Amazon. Those reviews are extremely important for authors, especially indie authors like me. My advertising and expense budget is tiny. Less than $500 per year. Continue reading

The Life and Times of a Not-Starving, Starving Artist

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Only a certain number of artists are significantly wealthy, and I am definitely not one of them. When I refer to “artists” I mean people who produce art in the visual realm, in music, in performances, and with the written word, of course. My strengths primarily lie in the written word, but I like to dabble in visual art as well. While I’ve sold my words, I have never sold any of my visual art, though I have given projects as gifts. I’ve never offered it for sale. I imagine the results of doing so would be very similar to my venture out into the publishing world—supplemented by my day job.

Sure, I fantasize about writing full-time for myself, but realistically, I know that my current place in life is one of the not-starving, starving artist. My art is my true passion, but my own projects are not earning me a living wage. Actually, they don’t even pay for the expenses to run my business (hobby). I spend income from my day job for living expenses and the minimal expenses I incur as a writer. I am serious about the business, but I finance it as a hobby. I have to.

These expenses include a percentage utilities for my home office where most of the magic happens with my writing, entry fees for writing contests, gift cards or lunches for my lovely beta readers, the cost of books to donate or give away in contests, and any office supplies or book signing supplies I need. The income is royalties, which aren’t much. For example, I make about $3 per book after expenses. When people read one of my books on Kindle Unlimited, I get a very small royalty of less than $1 usually. 

Because I am skilled in visual arts, editing, and graphic design, I don’t have to outsource a lot of services that some indie authors need. I edit my own work with advice from beta readers who read because they’re my friends. The betas who are also writers have me as a beta for their work. And my friends know that I’ll be among the first to come running if they truly need me for something. I have a dear friend who takes my author photos and offers me help on graphic design elements I can’t handle on my own. Without these wonderful people in my life, I couldn’t do what I love at my current level.

While my personal writing may never completely support me financially, it’s feeding my soul. Without it, I would be a shell of a person. I get to use my writing and editing skills at my day job, which I love (most of the time), for which I am paid a living wage to help support my family (and my most-loved activities). I love hearing feedback at work that tells me I’m doing a good job, because I do care about my work, but it’s not the same exhiliration I get when I read a good review of my personal work. The fact that anyone takes the time to write a review because they enjoyed my novel makes my day when I read it. It’s one of the reasons I added to my reading goal last year that I would write reviews for all the books I read. As an author, I know how important those reviews can be.

Here’s a video review of “Caroline’s Lighthouse,” for which the reader rated me at 3 stars. Three stars means that you liked the book, but it wasn’t amazing. I give 3-star ratings often. 

I love reviews that talk about the good and the bad as much as I love reviews that only focus on the good. My books and my styles aren’t for everyone, and I’ll be the first to admit that I went a little overboard with Caroline’s descriptions in the novel. Each book I write makes me a better writer.

Thank you for reading, and please, please, write a review.
-Brandi Easterling Collins