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Writing and Publishing

Six Downsides of Self-Publishing

In my post “Five Reasons a Writer Should Self-Publish,” I listed several advantages of self-publishing. Although compelling, there are also downsides. Let’s also look at the downsides of self-publishing.

Consider These Six Downsides of Self-Publishing:

1. Quality is Often Lacking

Traditional publishers put their books through several rounds of editing to produce the best possible product. The temptation of self-publishing is to skip these steps. Even if a professional editor is hired, the chance of them catching everything a traditional publisher would in their multiple rounds of review is slim.

But too often, authors self-edit or tap a friend who, although well-intended, lacks the needed experience. From a production standpoint, there’s no reason for substandard output anymore. But it’s too easy and too tempting to cut corners.

2. Credibility May Be Illusive

Although self-publishing no longer carries the stigma it once did, some people still consider it a second-rate option.

3. Self-Promotion Is Required

Self-published authors are responsible for their own marketing, promotion, and sales. No one else will do it for you.

4. The Author Must Become an Entrepreneur

Self-publishing is a business, requiring an investment of time, effort, and money—all with no promise of a return. It’s risky, and you could lose money.

5. Limited Distribution

Although some distribution options are available, they don’t match the reach of a traditional publisher. Don’t plan on your book is in bookstores.

6. No Advances

Self-publishers must shell out money to publish; advances are not part of the equation. You must spend money ahead of time and then hope to earn it back later and make a profit.

These are the six downsides of self-publishing. Consider them carefully and if you opt to go this route, be sure to avoid them.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Five Reasons a Writer Should Pursue a Traditional Publishing Deal

The Benefits of Going with a Traditional Publisher

In “Why Self-publishing vs Traditional Publishing Doesn’t Matter” I pointed out that both options have the potential to satisfy the core needs of a writer seeking publication. Writers must carefully consider the pros and cons of each option before pursuing either one. Future posts will consider some of these issues.

To start the discussion, here are five reasons why a writer should go with a traditional publisher:

1. Wider Distribution

Traditional publishers have distribution avenues that are effectively not available to self-published books. Sure, there are work-around solutions, but they’re limited and require much time and effort. Traditional publishers handle the distribution, easy peasy.

2. An Advance

Traditional publishers provide an advance. While the advances are getting smaller, they still exist. Self-publishers never receive an advance. In fact, self-publishing costs money, so it’s like a negative advance.

3. More Prestige

An author of a traditionally published book earns greater respect and garners more esteem.

4. Higher Quality

Traditional publishers generally produce a higher quality product. There are more eyes looking at it to catch errors and make it the best they can.

5. They Do the Heavy Lifting

What about e-books, hardcover and paperback, press releases, cover designs, ISBN, bar codes, back cover material, and author photos? A traditional publisher handles all these items. There’s nothing for the author to master or worry about; traditional publishers make it happen.

Traditional Publisher versus Self-Publishing

Given all this, why would anyone want to self-publish? Next week, we’ll consider why.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

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Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

WordPress Primer: Seven Tips to Get Started Right and Minimize Confusion

I recently posted a series on getting started using WordPress for your blog or website. In case you missed some of them, here are the seven posts:

  1. Using WordPress For Your Blog: Two Options to Consider
  2. Getting Started with WordPress
  3. What’s the Difference Between a WordPress Page and Post?
  4. What’s a WordPress Theme?
  5. What’s a Widget and Why Do I Want Them on My WordPress Blog?
  6. What’s the Difference Between a Category and a Tag on Your WordPress Blog?
  7. Essential WordPress Plugins

Setting up a blog is just the first step; the next one is coming up with great content and presenting it in the best way possible. Therefore, I just completed a series on blogging, where I shared ideas on how to best use a blog once it’s set up.

Happy blogging!

Read more in Peter’s new book, Sticky Customer Service, to uncover helpful customer service tips, encouraging you to do better and celebrating what you do best.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Common Submission Errors

Here are the three biggest mistakes people make when submitting content for publication. Avoid these common submission errors :

1. Not Following Submission Guidelines

The first submission error is not following directions.

Adhering to submission guidelines helps increase the chance of them publishing your work. Each deviation lessens the likelihood of success.

Common mistakes include missing deadlines (a huge no-no), submitting content not accepted by the publication, and having a piece that’s the wrong length. Too many writers ignore the directions for submissions.

2. Not Proofreading Their Work

The second submission mistake is not proofreading their submission.

Most editors will overlook an error or two, but when it’s clear that the author never even ran spellcheck, it’s obvious they haven’t bothered to send their best work, and they expect me to clean it up. Sometimes I don’t have the time, but it always irritates me,

3. Not Adhering to Writing Conventions

The third submission error is using non-standard formatting.

Some writers must think that creative formatting equals creative writing. It does not. They use odd fonts or switch fonts within the piece, various point sizes, multiple colors, and lots of bold, italics, underline, all three, and ALL CAPS.

All these things require work to clean up. Make it simple for editors by submitting a clean copy with no embellished formatting.

To have the best chance of success, avoid these common submission errors.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Write Every day or At Least Write Regularly

The one single most important thing I ever did was to make the commitment to write every day.

This principle to write every day, however, is shorthand to write regularly. At first, I wrote five days a week, Monday through Friday. Then I made it six days and eventually seven. Now I’m back to six. It’s a rhythm that works for me in this season of my life.

Through all these variations, the one constant is that I get up every weekday morning and shuffle off to my writing desk. Whether I feel like it or not, I sit down and write. I commit to at least an hour each day, but my goal is to write longer. Usually, I make it.

Until I began to write regularly, the writing was ancillary. Now it’s central, and that’s made all the difference.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Writing Perspectives (Point of View)

Many beginning writers wonder about point of view in writing and which should they use. Though there are many books written on this subject, here’s a brief overview.

Note that most people use perspective and point of view interchangeably—that’s what I learned in High School English—but others make a distinction between them, claiming that point of view is the correct term for this discussion.

Here is a brief, basic overview of perspectives/points of view.

First Person Point of View

First-person perspective uses I, as in I said… or I went…

For example, I went to the bookstore to buy the latest book by my favorite author.

Second Person Point of View

Second person perspective uses you, as You said… or You went…

For example, you go to the store to buy a journal and pen.

Second person is hard to write (and to read), so most authors avoid it. As an exercise, I wrote a piece of flash fiction in the second person, present tense. It was tedious.

Third Person Point of View

The third-person perspective uses he, she, and they, as in He said… or They went…

For example. They went to a book signing to see the famous author.

Two Types of Third-Person Points of View

There are two flavors of third-person: Limited (only what the point of view character can observe or think) and Omniscient (where the narrator knows what everyone thinks).

Third-person omniscient is out of favor and seldom recommended any more—though many of the classics, including much of the Bible, is third-person omniscient.

Writing Tense

For each of these four options there are two choices: present tense (what is happening now) and past tense (what has already happened). This results in eight possible combinations to consider, but eliminating the second person and third-person omniscient, cuts our considerations down to four.

Past tense is easier to use, and the first person is more natural for most writers. After all, when we tell stories about ourselves to our friends, we use the first person, past tense.

Beginning writers should start with first person perspective, past tense, as in “I wondered which point of view I should use.” Then try third person, past tense, if you wish.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

E-Book Formatting

Though I could hire someone to format my e-books, I format my own. For me, it’s a question of control.

With more people self-publishing and many doing their own formatting, readers no longer expect one ideal format. Even traditional publishers aren’t consistent in how they format their e-books. The key is to make sure the formatting doesn’t get in the way of the reader’s experience.

I use the free e-book formatting tool on draft2digital.com. I output a Mobi file and test it using Kindle Previewer. If it’s good, I upload it to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Else, I continue to tweak it until I’m satisfied with the results. Draft2Digital also provides an epub file, which all other platforms use. In addition to Amazon (KDP), I also consider publishing with Draft2Digital, Kobo, Ingram Sparks, and Publish Drive.

There are also other free resources and inexpensive tools to format books. And for those who don’t want to mess with e-book formatting, there are many people who will do it for you. Check out Reedsy and Fiverr, I’ve used both for publishing-related services and had positive experiences. Another option is BookBaby, though I’ve not used them. In all cases, the price and quality vary, so proceed with care.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Tips on Getting Feedback

After writing regularly, the second most valuable thing I did was to get feedback on my writing. It was scary at first (and sometimes still is).

But to get feedback from our family or friends doesn’t count. They love us and will only tell us good stuff. Or even worse, they’ll say our writing is good when it isn’t.

Instead, get feedback from serious writers and readers. But don’t request feedback from someone who doesn’t write or read in your genre; they’re not qualified to give valuable input.

Here are some ideas for getting feedback:

  • Join a critique group, either online or in person.
  • Work with another writer to provide feedback to each other.
  • Hire an editor or mentor to help you hone your words.

Something that’s important to me when I give and get feedback is to “speak the truth in love.” I’ve worked with some editors who gave me good feedback, but their delivery was so caustic that it made me ill.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Keep Up on Evolving Writing Conventions

Do you want to stay current with other changes in writing conventions? I wish there was a site, a book, an app, or a publication that would answer these questions.

But if there’s a one-stop resource, I don’t know of it. Besides, there would likely be disagreement over it, anyway.

Here’s how I work to keep up with ever-changing writing trends:

  • Participate in critique groups.
  • Network with other writers.
  • Go to writing conferences.
  • Take advantage of every opportunity to have a professional editor look at my work.
  • Learn from the recommendations of editors.
  • Study the latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Look at the conventions followed in books recently produced by major publishers.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Before You Write a Novel, Start With Something Shorter

Write short stories to master the art of fiction writing

May is short story month. I share this news in advance so you can consider how you want to celebrate. You might want to spend the month reading short stories or perhaps focus on writing a few. But regardless, give short stories some consideration in the month of May. Doing so will inform your other writing, whether you write fiction or not.

I know many beginning writers who sit down to write a novel. They have a vision and enthusiasm, but not much else. They start writing but soon give up in frustration. And for the few who do finish, their story isn’t that good.

I’ve often heard that novelists write several bad novels before penning a good one. Those first books serve as training for them to learn what works and doesn’t, to find their voice, and to hone their craft. They need to figure out plot and structure and story arc and character development and dialogue and a slew of other things. And they write several practice books to get there.

Why not write several practice short stories instead?

I took that path. In fact, I focused on flash fiction: short stories with fewer than one thousand words. I experimented with a first-person and third person, present tense and past tense. I even wrote a second-person, present-tense short story—something I’d hate doing for an entire book.

Using short stories, I fine-tuned my dialogue. I worked on intriguing titles, strong openings, and satisfying closes. I practiced “show, don’t tell” and worked on word choice.

I did all this in preparation to one day write a novel. You see, I didn’t want to waste several novels practicing. I used my short stories for that. I got feedback from critique groups, hired tutors, and studied.

Then one day I wrote a piece of flash fiction. It started out as 900 words. But I liked the premise and added to it to produce a 2,500-word short story. I fell in love with the characters and wanted to write more. I did write more, a lot more. By the time I finished my story arc I had a 28,000-word novella. But it needed more. Next, I added two secondary story arcs and the length grew to 46,000 words, enough for a short novel and about perfect for the YA (young adult) genre.

So my 800-word piece of flash fiction grew into a 46,000-word novel.

But the story isn’t over.

Last year, for NaNoWriMo, I wrote a 49,000-word sequel. Then I mapped out a series. I’m ready to start writing books three and four.

Writing short stories prepared me to write novels. And writing fiction helps me write better nonfiction and memoir.

To celebrate the short story. May is short story month. It even has its own Twitter account: @ShortStoryMonth, which often uses the hashtag #shortreads.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.