Archive for the ‘W4CY Radio Personalities’ Category

Understanding the Independent Publishing Process

When I wrote and published my first book in 2008, I didn’t know what I didn’t know in terms of the mechanics of independent publishing. Yes, I knew how to write (though the evolution of my novel is a blog post unto itself) via my professional writing and editing experience, and I understood enough about the process to seek out a professional editor. Beyond that, however, the process of transforming my manuscript into a marketable offering on Amazon.com (and everywhere books are sold online) was a daunting task.

Oh my God, where can I find a talented book cover designer I can trust?

Hold on, I need to format my book…and not just for paperback, but for something called Kindle? 

Fast-forward to the present. I’m blessed to own a business that includes being an independent publishing consultant and offering all-inclusive packages designed to make the process of writing and publishing a book simple, efficient, and fun. I contract with interesting clients and a team of creative professionals who provide the services that are beyond my zone of genius — like cover design and formatting — and factored into the cost. The result is personalized service with everything you need to produce a quality book.

An example of professional Kindle formatting.

Are you ready to publish your book? Here are my six simple steps to independent publishing:

  1. Select a Publishing Package– Whatever your goal, I offer a package that meets your needs.
  2. Choose Your Publication Date – I require approval on the FINAL edits a minimum of two months prior.
  3. Commit to Your Project – My collaborative editing process requires a time commitment from both of us.
  4. Approve Final Edits – After a few rounds of editing, you, the author, must approve the final edits before the manuscript moves into formatting.
  5. Approve Formatting – Once you approve the final edits, your manuscript moves into the formatting stage. What is formatting? It pertains the interior style of the book including fonts, headers, chapter templates, and justification. When your manuscript makes it to the formatting part of the process, you can no longer add or remove paragraphs, rewrite sentences, delete content or add new content. When is the time to do that? At any point within Step 4. By the time you approve final edits, you’ve reviewed your document repeatedly. Take as long as you need before signing off because we will not make any further editing changes after it moves into formatting.
  6. Approve Proof Copy – Before your book goes live online, you must approve either a digital version or a paperback proof. If you’re a new author, I recommend the latter.

Aside from editing, formatting, and cover design, my publishing packages include an ISBN (International Book Standard Number) assignment, a keyword-rich back cover description, set-up on Amazon, and a free paperback proof copy, among other services. You retain 100% ownership and all rights to your book. For the full list, click here.

As your independent publishing consultant, I am just as vested as you in the outcome. Producing good books with original, compelling covers and stylish, readable formatting is my top priority. Making you look good is my goal. If you have any questions or would like to schedule your no-obligation coaching call to discuss your project, contact me.

And be sure to tune in every Monday at 5 PM Eastern for Your Book Your Brand Your Business.

What Is Ghostwriting and How Much Does It Cost?

As a seasoned ghostwriter of over 10 books and countless eBooks, blog posts, and website content, I answer this question regularly. Individuals and companies hire ghostwriters for a wide range of projects, but for our purposes here, I’ll focus on full-length books of up to 250 pages.

In a 2012 article entitled Why Writing a Book Is Good Business, Forbes writer Erika Anderson says publishing a book enhances your personal and business credibility and your brand clarity. She also highlights a 2006 study of business book authors, which found that 96 percent reported a “positive, significant impact on their business from writing a book and would recommend the practice.”

I speak from my own experience. After publishing my loosely autobiographical, fictional novel Water Signs in 2008 my business expanded to include ghostwriting, when someone who bought my book at an event called me a few months later about writing his groundbreaking spiritual/political thriller Steps To Salvation. Until then, I’d never considered ghostwriting a full-length book for anyone, but now it’s one of my most popular services.

One of my favorite projects.

So, what is ghostwriting exactly?

It is a service where you entrust your concept for a fictional story, or the facts of your own life and experiences, e.g. a leadership/business book, self-help book, or memoir, to a professional writer who gathers relevant information from you, outlines your book, and writes it in your voice. That’s a basic starting point. Depending on the scope of the project, it can take anywhere from a few months months to several years to produce a high quality product. At this juncture in my career, I focus exclusively on nonfiction for entrepreneurs who understand that a book is an effective way to expand their influence, enhance their credibility, and launch new product lines and services.

While I can’t speak for every ghostwriter, I’ve developed my own process after years of experience, which I’ve distilled into seven steps:

  1. Investigation – I conduct a weekly recorded call with my client where I act as an investigative reporter and ask questions. Why recorded? To make it easier to capture information I’ll need later on as well as the client’s manner of speaking; in essence, their voice. This ensures that when I sit down to write, I’ll be writing as the client — not as me. Depending upon the scope and purpose of the story, the investigative part of the process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. I transcribe each call into a working Word doc and send my client updates each week.
  2. Collaboration – from there, I collaborate with the client to offer suggestions in terms of content and ensure they’re comfortable including certain things. For example, a woman I once worked with experienced a rape by a family member as a teenager. In the beginning, she was adamant about not identifying him, which I honored and understood. But as the process moved along, she decided to call him out. Either way, including the rape as a turning point in her life was necessary. Particularly when dealing with sensitive topics, the client is in control. My job as the ghostwriter (and editor) is to make professional suggestions based on knowledge and experience.
  3. Organization – once I have all the information, I listen to playback of all recordings and read the transcriptions to determine a logical sequence. Flow and pacing are just as important as content. Even if you have an incredible story to share, if not well organized, you’ll quickly lose your readers. In the case of fiction, once I have the real-life events, I then figure out characters, plot, and sequencing. Fiction demands a different kind of creativity. Once I know the actual story, I then spend time creating characters and mapping out a plot. I explain to my clients that the fictional version of their story will not mirror real life because it’s not a memoir. Aside from changing locations (dictated by the client), creative license may involve consolidating multiple real-life people into one character, amending the timeline of events for pacing purposes, and creating purely fictional situations to enhance the intrigue.
  4. Writing – as I said, ghostwriting demands the ability to write in someone else’s voice, which means getting into someone else’s head. The only way to accomplish this feat is by conducting the regular recorded interviews I described in the first bullet. Most importantly though, a ghostwriter must have a genuine interest in other people. Without it, it’s impossible to do the job well. Paradoxically, good writing is a product of pouring your heart and soul into your creation, yet in the case of a ghostwriter, it’s not really your work, so you must maintain a certain detachment while you treat the process as if the end result is your accomplishment. This is especially true if your name will not appear anywhere on the cover.
  5. Editing – after I’ve completed the manuscript, I review it with my client for content before I send it to a professional editor (I work with several talented people). As with the writing portion of the project, my client has the right to accept or decline any changes for as long as the book is in the editing phase. However, once my client approves the edits and their manuscript moves into the formatting phase, there are no further editorial changes.
  6. Formatting – since my ghostwriting packages are all-inclusive, once editing is completed, I send the approved manuscript to a professional formatter to design a customized interior. Elements of formatting include fonts, justification, interior photo layout (if photos are included), and table of contents alignment. Formatting for paperback and formatting for eBook involve unique characteristics, e.g. an eBook must be “clickable” to allow the reader to jump to different portions of the book, so both are included in the publishing package.
  7. Customized Cover Design – yes, readers do judge books by their covers, which is why customized cover design and consultation with a professional is included. If you have a concept in mind, my designer will bring it to life; if you don’t, he or she will happily create a compelling design concept based on the content of the book. I cannot stress the importance of cover design enough. It spells the difference between a reader clicking on your title to learn more and possibly purchase, or passing it by altogether. Come to think of it, the expression of not judging a book by its cover ironically applies to everything except books.

Now that you know how ghostwriting works, hopefully you have a better understanding of its value. Whether it’s me or someone else, your ghostwriter will spend countless hours fulfilling your dream of becoming a published author — or of adding more published books to your list of accomplishments. It demands time, talent, skill, discernment…and even a bit of amateur psychology for a good ghostwriter to produce a product their client can be proud of.

For a full listing of all services included in my ghostwriting packages, click here. Tune in to Your Book Your Brand Your Business Mondays at 5 PM Eastern.

How to Write a Quality Book Review

Since authors spend a great deal of time and effort — along with money — to write and publish their books, learning how to write a quality book review is one of the best ways for readers to express their appreciation and offer constructive feedback. Please note, I called it constructive feedback — not criticism for criticism’s sake. For potential new readers, a thoughtful review can make the difference between buying a book or clicking on the next title in their search for reading material worthy of an hour or more of their time.

What elements comprise a quality book review?

First, let’s define a bad book review. No, I’m not referring to legitimate criticism of characters, plot, pacing, writing, or any other vital aspect of a compelling story. I’m talking about generic reviews like, “I loved the book!” or “Wow, this is excellent!” or “This book is a must-read!” that omit any substantive descriptions as to why the reviewer feels that way. Conversely, the same principle applies to pithy one-or-two sentence reviews like, “Awful book!” “I can’t believe anyone would write this drivel!” or “Don’t waste your time reading.” Well, give a specific reason (or two, or three) as to why no one should bother with that particular book or you run the risk of looking like a troll who’s just shooting someone down for fun.

It doesn’t matter if it’s high praise or caustic criticism, the reviewer does the author (and his or her potential readers) a disservice by omitting specifics. Whether you love or hate a book (or fall somewhere in-between), here are some guidelines on how to write an effective, useful review for both authors and readers.

  1. Demonstrate You Have Actually Read the Book– sounds counter-intuitive, but I’m not advocating that reviewers should give away spoilers. However, it is possible to mention a few specifics about what you liked about the main character, themes, narration, dialogue, etc. What did you like or dislike about the protagonist or supporting characters? Why did the plot draw you in? Was the book thought-provoking? Edgy? Enlightening? Why?  Even if you select just one aspect and explain why it had an impact on you, for better or for worse, it will demonstrate your knowledge of the book.
  2. Offer a Balanced Perspective– as I mentioned, a great deal of time and energy goes into the production of a book. Whether you rate it 5-stars or 3-stars (more on that in point #4), identify what the author does well and the areas in which he or she could improve. Is the dialogue stilted but the prose captivating? Say so. Is the pacing too slow? Too fast? Explain why and give an example. Is a character well defined or one-dimensional? Offer a specific example that supports your opinion.
  3. Limit Your Review to One-to-Three Paragraphs– for maximum impact, keep it pithy. Select a few qualities about the book that stood out to you, whether it involves a secondary character, a particular scene, or the overarching themes. Again, you don’t want to give away spoilers; you want to focus on your most indelible impressions of the book. No one wants to read a lengthy, rambling review, and from a copywriting/marketing perspective, such reviews do more harm that good. The objective is to provide constructive criticism and/or genuine praise to better inform the author and prospective readers.
  4. Give the Author at Least 3 Stars– here I am taking my cue from author Daniella Bova, who states at her blog DaniellaBova.com, “Authors put their heart and soul into their writing, so I will never give any book less than 3 stars. I just won’t review it at all.” Words to live by. If you really hate a book for whatever reason (poorly written, plot holes, undeveloped characters, etc.), it’s best to heed our mothers’ advice, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Instead, contact the author privately (if they’ve made their email public or have a public Facebook page where you can message them) and share your thoughts. By doing so, you’ll help them improve their writing skills while saving them the embarrassment of a 1-or 2-star public review. Do unto others, as you’d have done to you, after all.

Here’s an example of a thorough book review:

Water Signs was one of those rare books that I had to force myself to put down because it was such an engaging, refreshing read. I enjoyed the fact that the story was set around the Jersey shore, as I am a Jersey girl myself. But what truly kept me reading was that Daria put so much life into her characters! Their personalities, their personal convictions, and their sense of family were so palpable that every time I read a page, it was like coming home to friends. The story kept me hooked all the way through, allowing me to experience Ken and Maddy’s life journeys along with them right on to the very end. If you are searching for a truly good book that will leave you satisfied, Water Signs is definitely worth every penny!

Full Disclosure: I am the author of Water Signs and host of Your Book Your Brand Your Business. The book review above is one of my favorites for the reasons I described in this post. Happy reading…and don’t forget to write a quality book review for the author!