Publishing Advice


How Do You Become a Writer?


When do you know that you're a real writer?

Is it the first moment you pick up the pen and scratch out a sentence, or is it back when you are thinking about wanting to write. Is it when you get an agent, or when your first book is published? If you publish traditionally, are you more of a real writer than if you publish independently? Is it when you sell a hundred copies, or become a bestseller? Perhaps after your win a big writing contest you'll be a real writer. Maybe it's when your mom introduces you, "This is my daughter. She's a writer."

So often we wait for external validation to confirm the identifies we long for. We may wait a really long time.

I first admitted out loud that I wanted to be a writer when I was 21 years old. I was living in the French Quarter of New Orleans, furiously scribbling away in black journals while sipping sugary coffee at back alley cafes. My favorite writing spot was right next to the William Faulkner house. My lines dripped with imitated southern gothic sentiment. Certainly I was an artiste, even if I kept a day job at Shell Oil and hadn't actually published anything ever.

When my daughter was born a few years later, it became clear that if I expected her to follow her dream, I better damn well follow mine. To move this whole writer fantasy out of the dark alleys and into the light of day, I signed up to finish my four-year degree at The Evergreen State College, my concentration listed as writing. Here I learned that writing is a craft, something that may be learned and improved upon. Excellent mentors such as Bill Ransom, Steven Hendricks, Bruce Benderson, and Leonard Schwartz taught me how to evolve my prose to something both meaningful and readable.

After a couple brief years of admittedly dramatic improvement, I deemed myself brilliant and ready for the world. I self-published a book of short works and queried at least 50 agents and editors. Thumbing through one of the 500 copies of my book I had printed in advance of certain fame, I realized that perhaps I could have benefited from the assistance of an editor. I found quite a few grammatical errors. Oh well, surely a few spelling errors would not diminish the overwhelming genius of my work, right?

Not so much.

I received about 20 rejection letters, the rest simply ignored my queries. With no distribution, platform or marketing channels, the error-ridden books I paid for with my limited fund simply rotted away in my mother's barn.

Too soon. I went out too soon.

Disheartened, but a tiny bit wiser, I took a job teaching English over seas. Life in Japan inspired me to start work on my first novel. I wrote with abandon. Most importantly, I also read and lived with abandon. I collected experiences and authors as though storing up a great war chest - my writer's war chest.

Ten more years I worked on my craft, starting my own writing group and getting regular feedback, reading across genres and periods, learning about the business of publishing. When I compare myself now with the writer I was when I was twenty-five, I can see how far I've come. I know also have a sense of how very far I have to go. How do you become a writer? You write, read and live. Repeat.Street art by Eddie Colla.

"If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission." - Eddie Colla

No one will point at you and say, "You are a real writer." It's not their job. It's your job. You declare, "I am a writer." And then you write and you learn and you read and you write.

I had stopped waiting for permission when finally an agent knocked at my door. Youthful impatience be damned, it was all those years working on my craft and learning about the publishing world that made me suddenly a beacon for those I once considered gatekeepers. When I had my author platform built, when I had well-written (and professionally edited) stories self-published and available on Amazon, when I was out in the world joyfully working on publishing projects, that's when I got the call from the agent.

Here's the secret...

 There is no gatekeeper.

There is only what you do and what you don't do. It doesn't matter if you want to be a writer, or an entrepreneur or an airplane mechanic, the path is the same. Name your dream. Practice. Learn. Live. Repeat.

How Much Should I Pay for Editing?

hould_i_pay_for_editingThis post first appeared on


Fair and Reasonable Editing Rates

There seem to be as many editing payment structures as there are editors. Editing rates can vary wildly based on the editor’s experience and the depth of editing required. As a writer, it can be hard to know if you’re getting a fair rate. As an editor, it can be difficult to find the right balance between providing good value for your client and being paid what you deserve.

The Editorial Freelancers Association provides an extremely helpful rate card that provides a range of fees for specific editing jobs. Here are some sample rates from the EFA’s rate card:

Editing, basic copyediting 5–10 pgs/hr $30–40/hr
Editing, heavy copyediting 2–5 pgs/hr $40–50/hr
Editing, website copyediting $40–50/hr
Editing, developmental 1–5 pgs/hr $45–55/hr

Based on the above rates, basic copyediting for an 320 page novel (about 80,000 words) could cost $1,500, while a more extensive developmental edit could run $6,400.

These amounts are enough to knock the socks off many indie writers. However, when you consider the experience, value, and time given by the editor, these numbers are more than warranted. These are the average rates a professional editor may charge. One with many books under her belt and the experience required to help you produce the most professional, best book possible.

If these prices are out of your range, have no fear! There is still an editor for your project. Many factors contribute to an editor’s rate. Here are a few:

  • Experience
  • Education level
  • Specialized training
  • Genre knowledge and familiarity
  • Industry connections
  • Salary requirements
  • Current work load

If you simply cannot pay full market rate for a well-qualified editor, you may consider working with an editor who only has a few books under her belt and is willing to take on your project at a lower rate in exchange for the experience and a future recommendation.

If you do have the budget, and you are working to publish a business or nonfiction book, or even a well-heeled novel, your best bet is to invest in a highly qualified editor. The book you put on the shelves (or on the web) is a product. If you have expectations of financial return, it’s in your best interest to create the very best product possible to satisfy the tastes of today’s discerning readership.

VIDEO: How to Throw an Amazing DIY Book Release Party

A book release party can be a celebration of all the blood, sweat, and tears you put into your book, or it can be a nightmare of bad timing, SNAFU logistics, and low turnout. The trick is to plan well. For the community, Scott James detailed exactly how to plan, promote, and throw an amazing book release party without losing your mind or breaking your budget.

  • Crafting an Event Story: Why should people be excited about your release?
  • Choosing a Location: What makes a good party venue?
  • Presentation: Make your event special without breaking the bank.
  • Support: What kind of assistance can you ask for?
  • Promotion: How can you get your fans and new readers there with you?

While I hosted this webinar, I focused also on recording Scott's suggestions for my own use. These are some of the best ideas I've ever heard for a successful book release party. Scott is one of those that gets it.

RECORDED WEBINAR: How to throw an amazing DIY book release party

Scott's bio: Scott Andrew James is a marketing ally for authors. Through the Redhat Publishing Project, he coaches authors on social media and marketing outreach and speaks about marketing, Kickstarter campaigns, and time management throughout the country. He blogs daily at DIY Author ( about marketing tips and tricks. As San Francisco Community Manager for, he thrives on connecting authors and freelancers to help get better books out into the world. Find Scott at @scottandjames and

The Most Inspirational Self-Publishing Success Story I Have Ever Heard

self-publishing-success-storyPublishing success is something that happens to other people - people with MFA's from Iowa, people who dine with agents in New York, people sprinkled with fairy dust and set apart from us mortal writers. Right?

Not so much.

The most inspirational self-publishing success story I have ever heard begins with two parents facing an incredible family crisis. Jack and Jasinda Wilder were just 30 days from losing their home. They stretched the one small salary between them to the breaking point while supporting their five young kids. Their wildly daring solution? Start writing - and publishing!

In just six months, the husband and wife team published 20 titles, including many romance and erotica. Then, their fast-paced and deeply felt novel "Falling Into You" zoomed to #4 on the New York Times Bestseller List and hit #1 on Amazon.

Through, I had the great luck to talk to Jack and Jasinda about their amazing publishing journey and ask what tips they have for authors seeking such success. Open, intelligent and incredibly real, these authors shared some gems. Watch the video and just try not to feel inspired, I dare you.

~~~~~~ About Jack and Jasinda Wilder ~~~~~~

CBS video:
Amazon Author Page:


How to Write a Query Letter That Will Have Agents Begging for More

how-to-write-a-query-letterThis post was first published on

Do you want to get a publisher to pick up your book? First, you likely need an agent. To get an agent, you’re going to have to write a query letter. I recently sat in on a PNWA presentation by Marilyn Allen, a respected agent and remarkably engaging person. Here’s what I learned from Marilyn on how to write a query letter that will have agents begging for more.

First impressions matter. The three most important things to include in your query letter are the hook, the book, and the cook.

  • The hook: Why would someone drive across to the city to buy this? Grab attention. Make the agent want to read more. This can be what you do for a living, an award, a creative line, or a scientific fact.
  • The book: Include a couple of lines about your book. Don’t write out your whole synopsis, just enough to get the agent interested. Show your passion and energy. If your book is fiction, write the setup, conflict, and resolution.
  • The cook: Tell them why you are the perfect person to write this book. What are your qualifications? What do you do for a living? Degrees? List the three to four most important things on your author platform. Bullet points work well here.

Double check for dumb mistakes. We are all overwhelmed with emails and submissions. You need to stand out and not give one reason for dismissal. As soon as an agent sees typos, attachments, or mistakes with her name, she moves on. Be smart and sharp.

Tell us about your platform. How will you help your publisher announce your book? Speeches? Organizations? Clubs? Start your own newsletter? Can you have 40,000 people on your newsletter?

Describe the audience. What is the age range? Gender? What kind of person would buy your book?

Provide smart comparisons. My book is like [INSERT SIMILAR, WELL-KNOWN BOOK NAME HERE]. Be careful here. Don’t be too ambitious or obscure.

Include genre and categories. Where does your book fit? Where will it be shelved? Have focus. Publishers want one proper home for your book. Understand the competition.

It’s a good idea to have your query letter reviewed before you send it out. Get a writerly friend (or five) to read it over and look for any mistakes you missed. Consider hiring a professional to critique your query and help you bring out the most compelling, salable aspects of your book.

VIDEO: Crowdfunding for Authors Tutorial with Pubslush

RECORDED WEBINAR: Crowdfunding for authors

How to raise funds to publish your book led by Amanda Barbara of Pubslush

It used to be that writers publishing futures were completely controlled by the publishing house gods. You would develop your craft, write your book, send it off to an agent and pray for the best. That path to publishing remains an option. However, for those of you with the interest and energy to take your publishing fate into your own hands, crowdfunding offers an attractive alternative.

To learn more about crowdfunding, I invite you to watch the recorded webinar above. Amanda Barbara of Pubslush generously shared her crowdfunding tips with me and the community.

You'll learn:

  • What is crowdfunding is and how it can help authors?
  • How to create and conduct a successful crowdfunding campaign.
  • How to use your successful campaign for book sales and promotion.

PERSONAL NOTE - You can choose from numerous crowdfunding platforms to raise the money to publish your book. Pubslush is unique in that they are created specifically to support writers and publishing projects. Not only that, the Pubslush team have proven again and again to be the most accessible, helpful crew around.

About Amanda:
Amanda L. Barbara is the vice president of Pubslush, a global crowdfunding platform only for books. Authors can raise funds, understand their audience, and self-publish or traditionally publish their work. A philanthropist at heart, she serves on the board of directors for the Pubslush Foundation, which supports children's literacy initiatives worldwide, and is a founder and director of The Barbara Family Foundation, an organization committed to assisting charities and children in need. Amanda is an advocate for crowdfunding in the publishing world and has spoken at various conferences, such as Writer's Digest, Tools of Change, Crowdfunding East Conference, and the Digital Publishing Innovation Summit, and has served as an ambassador and speaker at CONTEC at the Frankfurt Book Fair.


VIDEO: How to Plan a Book Launch

RECORDED WEBINAR: How to plan a book launch

Do you have a new book coming out? Congratulations! Now is the time to start planning your book launch.

In this recorded, one-hour webinar, I discuss key components of a successful book launch including; prepping your author platform, branding, social media, live events, free and paid advertising, beta readers and lining up reviews.

After completing this webinar, you'll be able to create your own well-documented plan of action for using PR, social media and other marketing techniques to support your book launch.

TIP: Don't forget to download the book launch countdown checklist.

VIDEO: 10 Things to Do before You Publish

Recorded Webinar: 10 Things to Do Before You Publish

Want to know what you can do before publishing to improve your chances of success?

This one-hour recorded workshop teaches you ten things you can do before you send your book to an agent, or before you self-publish your book.

It doesn't matter if you plan to publish independently or through a traditional publisher. To give your books the best chance for success, take the time to get your author platform in order, your community hopping and your identity as an author established.

Publishers and agents alike take a good look at an author's online presence, social media and website, network and community when deciding to take a chance on a new author. Luckily, with all the free tools and resources out there, it isn't hard to build a respectable author platform with minimal investment of money and time.

In this workshop, I walk your through ten things you must do before you publish your book to increase your odds of attracting an agent or reaching a big audience.

Starting from scratch? No problem! Let me illuminate a publishing path.

Already have an author platform established? You're ahead of the game! Come to pick up some new tips on how to optimize your online presence and get the most out of your real-life community.

BONUS: I also share insights on how I was able to raise $9,800 on Kickstarter to fund my non-fiction book project and attract an agent at the same time.

VIDEO: How to Sell Your Books on Social Media

Recorded webinar: How to sell your books on social media

Do you wish you could use social media more effectively to sell your books?

Spend any time on social media sites and you’ll see authors promoting their publications. Most of the noise is sadly ineffectual. However, it is possible to connect with readers and sell your book using popular sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube. Your readers are online and they are searching for new books.

In this free, one-hour webinar, I share ten powerful promotion tactics you can use to sell your books through your social media networks. I detail such tactics as free day promotions, beta readers and reviewers, contests and sweepstakes and the pros and cons of paid advertising sites. This video is a must-watch if you would like to sell your book on social media.

TIP: I mention a spreadsheet with book advertising options in the webinar. You can view the spreadsheet here.

Next: How to get more followers on Twitter.

VIDEO: How to Get Book Reviews

Recorded webinar: How to get book reviews

Would you like more book reviews?

Reviews are crucial for building your book's visibility and driving sales. Collecting reviews can be quite a challenge if you leave it to the fates. In this one-hour, recorded broadcast, I present many strategies for increasing your book review numbers such as:

  • Utilizing beta and early review readers
  • How to ask for reviews without harassing friends and family
  • New sites specifically made for authors to connect with reviewers
  • Paid and free options

TIP: I mention the partner program in the video between IBPA and NetGalley. Click here to read more about about the deal.

This recorded webinar will teach you how to get book reviews. Watch this category for more recorded webinars about publishing and book marketing coming soon!

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