A week of resources and inspiration for the Writer – Day 5

Books to be returned...

Books to be returned… (Photo credit: Hash Milhan)

For the final post in my week of resources I am going to cover off on the editing process. This is something I am elbows deep in at the moment and an activity that can prove more tiresome and taxing than anything else you will do on your journey to publication.

As I have mentioned before everybody works differently, but quite often I come across a handy tip that I haven’t tried out or considered. Here are the 3 things I have found most useful in editing and proofreading.

1) For your final edit, DON’T edit front to back. Start from a random chapter and keep doing another random chapter until you have finished. Alternatively start at the end and go backwards. When you edit from page one to the last, you will become engrossed in the story, regardless of how hard you try, and will miss things that you will pick up taking a random chapter in hand. Try it, It really works!!

2) Don’t trust your spell check. Regardless of what program you use to write, never think that the spell check function is a substitute for actually reading over every single word you have written. There will be more actual errors than you care to think of regardless of how sophisticated the spell checker is. Errors only a human eye will pick up.

3) Use your beta readers properly. Firstly, try and find those friends or family members that you believe will give you the most honest feedback. If you can find a stranger, that would be even better, but that could be difficult. Once you have managed to convince a few people to proofread your book, don’t allow them to fully dictate the feedback. When asked for feedback, people are inherently lazy and will also forget a lot of things that they have read. To fix this make sure you go into your meeting/discussion with the right questions in hand. Get it all on paper. Then, (and this part is important!) ask every beta reader the exact same questions and compare their answers.

I have a rule. If more than half of the people who have read your book find an issue, change it. If half or less don’t like it, you the author has creative authority and makes the final decision. The questions you ask will determine how useful the feedback you get is. I suggest specific questions such as;

– If you had to change one thing in the book what would it be?

– In which points did you feel a character acted out of character?

– Which names do you not like?

– I need to cut out a scene, which one would you cut?

You need to make sure you are getting good feedback and sometimes you need to prompt for negative feedback. If you leave it up to the beta readers, you will likely get some good stuff, but not all of the feedback that they have stored in their heads.

That wraps up my week of tools and resources. I hope that you were able to find something new, or something that you had forgotten about. Best of luck with all your writing!

A week of resources and inspiration for the Writer – Day 4

Today’s post will, I hope, be of use to those of us who are considering or already engaging in self publishing. The publishing industry is shifting and has in recent years become a living breathing beast, growing in different shapes and sizes on an almost daily basis. I read countless of threads on forums about the pros and cons of self publishing vs the traditional method and I try my best to stay out of the argument. I do not believe either method is perfect. That being said, traditional publishers are shrinking their exposure to print books and expanding into the digital platform. As a result of this, combined with the ease of creating your own eBook these days, more authors are taking things into their own hands. Be it via Lulu or Amazon’s Createspace, or Smashwords for a eBook.

It has never been easier to get your work out there and ready to read. But I believe to do so with success has never been harder. This post will focus on tools that can help you create the cover that will help you sell your work. Your book cover is in my opinion your single most important tool in getting a readers attention. Of course, in the long run the actual content of your book, good reviews and word of mouth will likely prove the defining factor in your success. However without a cover that draws the reader’s attention you will never even have the opportunity to win their loyalty with your writing.

Before a purchaser reads your blurb, be it in a bookstore or online, before they open up a page or check the sample pages to see whether they like your style and story, they skim over countless covers. If you haven’t put a lot of effort into your cover you are setting yourself back and hindering you possible success.

For those who find utilizing a computer for anything other than basic word processing a chore, I suggest investing in a professional cover. Do a Google search and find one of the thousands of artists who do commission work. I would recommend going for a less well known one as they will be more likely to have reasonable costs and want to do a good job to build their own word of mouth.

For those like me who like to have full creative control over their project, I recommend taking the time to create your own cover. This can at first seem a daunting task, but with a bit of practice you will find that it is not as hard as it seems.

The first thing that you need to do is download either photoshop or GIMP. If you are lucky enough to have photoshop, or willing to spend the big bucks on it, then it is a far superior product. I personally elected to go with GIMP, which is a free software package with similar functions. You can find it free to download at http://www.gimp.org/.

Once you have this, if you are like me and are an infant when it comes to digital art, spend some time watching tutorials on youtube. One’s like the one shown below will allow you to learn step by step how to create interesting effects for your own cover. Play around with enough of them and you will begin to get a hang of using the program.

 Credit to tutor4u for the video.

You will be amazed at how quickly you can create some amazing effects that will convert your cover text from something simple to something which every reader will stop and look at. Remember to watch some videos on creating background images for your covers. Most of the time its a simple process that will take you a few minutes and provide you with an end product you didn’t know you could make.

Next you will need pictures for your cover. I highly recommend http://www.deviantart.com/. The works collected on this site are amazing. However for the most part you will need to get in contact with the artists and purchase or seek permission to use their work. It is highly important that you pay attention to the license and copyright issues for anything you are considering using for your cover.

Other options are to purchase images from stock or royalty free websites such as http://www.shutterstock.com/ or http://au.fotolia.com/. You will find a large collection of images to use. Once you have the images you need, and are sure you have the permission to use them, have a look at some tutorials on how to place them into your cover. Once again there are countless GIMP or photoshop videos online.

Hopefully with a little bit of effort you will be able to create that cover that sets you apart from the beginners in the market.