Self-publishing writing schedule and commas

This year, I am aiming to write for half an hour every day. With work and family to look after, it’s extremely difficult to fit in time to write, but I think scheduling it into your routine makes you at least think about it. Today was a bonus, because my half an hour turned into two hours, and I felt very smug by the end of it. This evening, I also spent some time reading up on commas, yet again. Have you noticed that even though there are “rules” for commas, well-known authors don’t seem to abide by them? This makes life very difficult for us “would-bes”, but the advice seems to be unanimous: stick to the rules. This is very unfair as sometimes you feel like sticking it to the rules! I still find myself taking out commas, replacing them, taking them out … you get the drift! (Yes, I know I could take them out  and add them to this paragraph too!)

If you have been following my blog, you may be wondering what I am writing about. Is it the re-write of The Book of Thoth? Unfortunately not; it will be February/March time before I underdo that task, and it’s not down to procrastination! Now, time for the fanfare – I have started writing the second book!! End of fanfare. Yes, I have the second book more or less plotted in my head, and hope to finish writing it by the end of the year. Needless to say, it will be put on hold whilst I rewrite the first. All I can be sure of, is that this year involves a lot of writing, and I believe that’s what any would-be author should be aiming for 🙂


Recommended Books For Children (2) — Bolton Children’s Fiction Award

At the moment I am in limbo with my children’s book, The Book of Thoth, as I have booked a literary consultant for the beginning of February, and I don’t want to do anything with it until then. It would have been so easy to go ahead and self-publish, but I have taken the harder route of consultant feedback, followed by rewrite, followed by an enormous amount of praying, good luck, crossing of fingers and toes, and whatever else it may take to get my book professionally published. There’s no guarantee of professional publication so, to the sceptic, it may sound like I am wasting three months of valuable self-publish sales. But I think this process is essential if you are serious about becoming a better writer. Yes, I know, I have argued the point before that terrible writers can be bestsellers and great writers can have poor sales, but for me it is important to go through this process.

To fill the void whilst I wait, I decided to read the books in The Bolton Children’s Fiction Award 2014 – (

The shortlisted books are:

After Tomorrow by Gillian Cross

Young Knights of the Round Table by Julia Golding

Chase the Dark by Sam Hepburn

Constable and Toop Gareth P Jones

Moon Bear by Gill Lewis

No Where by Jon Robinson

As a would-be author, it is important to read, and you need to read a wide range of books so you get to grips with genre, writing styles, narrative mode, narrative time etc. I read children’s books, as my target audience are children, and I need to know what is already out there. They say you should never judge a book by it’s cover and I say you should never judge a book by its blurb either. When I looked at these books, I created a list in my head of the order I wanted to read these books in, the first book being the one I thought I would enjoy the most. Once I had read the books, my first and last place books were reversed – my favourite was actually the one that I had placed last on my list!

I think this is a great way of getting children to read books that they wouldn’t otherwise be tempted to pick up, so even though most people that read this blurb will not have children that are taking part in the Bolton Children’s Fiction Book Award, I would still recommend these books for your kids. It’s mainly Y7 and Y8’s that are taking part, but most of the books are suitable for ages 9-13 years. If you have a child that is at a school that is taking part, then, the books will be available in the school library. My son assures me that there are plenty of them 🙂

Formatting a self-published paperback book

If I self-publish, it will be through Createspace (CS). There are lots of other options out there, but I decided that CS was the easiest option for me. I have been through most of the processes with CS, up to receiving my second proof, and I haven’t add any problems (other than deciding that I would try the traditional publishing route first!).

Note – this blog refers to a paperback book and not an e-book.

CS has templates which you can download for the size of book that you have in mind. I had already written my book before I discovered CS, so I had to format my book afterwards. There’s plenty of advice on the CS website to show you how to do this, but here are a few tips:

1) Font – choose a font for your headings and narrative text, and make sure it is consistent throughout the whole manuscript. I used mainly Garamond for the majority of the text, and Times for my headings. Justify the main text (sorry if I am stating the obvious, but this is done by selecting the “Justify Text” option in the paragraph tab in Word, or CTRL J)

2) Page numbering – add page numbers using Word. If there are pages at the beginning and end, where you don’t want the numbers to appear, remember to select or deselect  “link to previous”. This option is available when you are in “headers or footers” in the design menu. Look it up, if you are unsure.

3) Margins – follow the CS guidelines for your book size. The gutter setting will vary depending on the number of pages in your book (think thickness of the book). See CS help pages.

4) Widow/orphans – this is automatically set in Word, but it can make the top and bottom lines in your book look out of sync, so you may want to sort out yourself. If you are unsure, Google it!

5) Make sure there are no blank lines in your header or footer, as it will appear in your book. I noticed that in my first proof, the top line of the even page was lower than the top line of the odd page. This was because of an empty line in the header!

6) Drop caps – add a drop caps at the beginning (if you want to!)

7) Page break – make sure you have one at the end of each chapter.

8) Search for double spaces and replace with one space – I was amazed at how many extra spaces I had inadvertently entered into my manuscript!

9) Images – follow the CS guidelines for pixel size. I think they have to be 300dpi. You can change this in Photoshop Elements of Paint or whatever you have access to. Also, see PDF below.

10) PDF – I changed my word document to PDF before uploading to CS. I was lucky enough to have access to Adobe, but I did have to fiddle with the image size settings (open up Adobe, select Edit, then Preferences and amend image size to 300dpi). There are some free online tools which you can use to convert your document to PDF. You know what I am going to say – Google for more info – that’s how I learnt!

11) Paragraphs – I guess this should have been higher up! Use the paragraph option in word as opposed to “tabbing” or “free spacing”.

12) Don’t forget to add your copyright page, acknowledgements etc.

The first time I uploaded my manuscript to CS, I only had 3 issues, so I was well chuffed with that. Two of the issues were to do with image size, and the other was to do with embedding an image. I sorted these out in Adobe.

The Book of Thoth looks amazing in paperback format! I keep picking up the book and flicking through the pages 🙂

I am at the stage now, where after amending the errors in my second proof, I can upload again and order the next proof. Then, when I am happy with the proof, I can approve the proof on CS and I am a few clicks away from my book being available on Amazon. I’m still tempted! However, as you will know from the beginning of my blog, and previous blogs, I am trying the traditional publishing route first (fingers crossed!). Good luck if you end up self-publishing before me!

Check out my last blog if you need help with the cover.

The Self-Published Book Cover

So I thought I had better get back to the self-publishing advice. Today, I’m going to concentrate on the book cover.

Tip of the day: get someone else to design a cover for you (unless of course you are a budding artist as well as a writer).

The thing is, I doubt many people know someone who will design their cover for free, so it could be costly. If you can afford it, great,  go ahead, but if you can’t, what do you do? Use one of the Createspace (CS) covers?

Sure why not? It’s the easy option and better than nothing.

The only other option, is to design the cover yourself. BUT REMEMBER it still needs to fit into the CS template!

I designed a cover myself using Photoshop Elements and I’ll be honest with you, it was pretty infuriating, but annoyingly addictive. I’m actually referring to Photoshop Elements as infuriating, and not the whole design process. I ended up watching lots of tutorials on YouTube, just to figure out how to use the software! Tip: you can download a trial of Photoshop Elements for free. When your trial period runs out, keep the program running and don’t shutdown your computer, and it will remain active.

For The Book of Thoth, I knew I wanted a picture of Thoth in the background, so I took lots of pictures of Thoth at the British Museum and adapted one of those. I also designed my own logo as on my website:

I used the logo as the letter O in Thoth.

I surrounded the front cover and back cover wording with hieroglyphs.

Back cover, I hear you say. Yes! You have to design the back cover, too. Obviously, the back cover needs to include the blurb. Once you are happy with the design, then you upload and submit to CS. They will email you back and let you know whether it has been accepted or not. Sounds easy, hey?

There is a bit more to it than that. So here’s a list of things to remember:

1) Book cover size – make sure you adjust your page  to be the same size as the book cover, before you start designing.

2) Always save you work!

3) The CS template has a border area where you are not allowed to have any text or anything that’s important to your cover. That’s because it will be cut off when printed!  I found that this area varied between proofs, so keep this area subtly blended in with the rest of the cover.

4) Always save your work!

5) Make sure you get someone to read and “spellcheck” your blurb, I only noticed an error on the second proof!

6) Always, always save your work.

I was really pleased with the cover I designed, in fact, the only issue I had was with the spine. For some reason, the spine was always a mm or so out on the proofs, but there was absolutely nothing I could do about this. Hopefully, CS will have this problem sorted soon.

If I am unsuccessful in my attempt at finding an agent, and I end up self-publishing my book, then I hope you will all like my cover, too.

Recommended books for children

Since I am not self-publishing my book, The Book of Thoth, before Christmas, I thought I would create a list of alternative reads, recommended by my children (aged 9, 12 and 14 years). Amazon categorises as 9-11 years and 12-16 years. Waterstone’s has the following age guide: 5-7 years, 7-9 years, 9-11 years and 12-16 years.

There will be some overlap, and it will be dependent on reading ability. I found that my eldest child was happy to read older aged books when he was 8, yet my younger two, preferred to stick to 5-8 year old books even when they were 9, so I had to find suitable books to encourage them to move up to the 9+ books. As long as your child is reading, it doesn’t matter if it takes them a bit longer before they tackle the older books, but I will try to provide some examples of books to try, if they are reluctant to move up to the longer books. Another thing to consider is that some of the older books may have swearing or references to sex.

My age ranges are not official! The books are just a selection of the masses of books out there, but ones that my children would recommend.

Beast Quest Series by Adam Blade (age 7+) – good books to start with for those moving up to read longer books.

Enid Blyton’s Adventure series (The Island of Adventure, The Castle of Adventure etc.) Age 7+ – no sex or swearing. Good books to start with for those moving up to read longer books.

Malory Towers Series by Enid Blyton (Age 7+) – good books to start with for those moving up to read longer books. No sex or swearing.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (age 8+) – good books to start with for those moving up to read longer books. No sex or swearing, but mild rudeness.

How to Train Your Dragon Series   (age 8+) – good books to start with for those moving up to read longer books.

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (age 7+) – good book to start with for those moving up to read longer books.

Harry Potter Books – the first two books are shorter and suitable from aged 8+. The rest of the books in the series are a lot longer and may be a bit daunting for those that have just moved up to the 8+/9+ level. There is mild swearing in some of the books. No sex but references to snogging as Harry gets older.

Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan  (age 9+)no sex but references to snogging as Percy gets older in the series.

Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan (age 9+) – similar to Percy Jackson.

Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan (age 11+) – the characters are older so more snogging.

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy (age 9+) – starts off suitable for 9+ but as the series progresses it gets more violent, so more suitable for 11-14years.

A Series of Unfortunate Events  (age 9+) – no sex or swearing but a lot of sadness!

Artemis Fowl Series (age 9+) – more suited to 11+ as the books are quite long. Contains elvish (elfin or elfish?) swearing!

The Emerald Atlas by John Stevens  (age 10+) – suitable for younger, confident readers too. No sex or swearing.

Cherub Series by Robert Muchamore  (age 9+) – contain sex and violence. I have copied the following from

My  books are primarily aimed at kids aged 11+ and the majority of my readers are aged  between 12 & 14. These  are the content guidelines I use for CHERUB and Henderson’s Boys:

1.  There are no sexual swear words in the books. Each book has roughly the same  number of mild swear words in it (yes we count them every time!).

2.  Characters (including the main character from CHERUB book 8 onwards) do have sex and issues such  as contraception and sexually transmitted diseases are touched on. However,  there is no explicit depiction of sexual acts beyond kissing and  non-genital touching.

3.  Other controversial subjects such as drug abuse, human slavery, brainwashing  etc are depicted in the books. Although individual characters may espouse this  behaviour in specific scenes, the overall message of the story is always that  these forms of behaviour are completely unacceptable.

To self-publish or not to self-publish that is the question

Now that I am nearly self-published, I am having doubts. Should I try harder to get published through the more traditional route i.e. via an agent or a publisher? At the moment, my gut instinct is that I should. Ouch! After a whole year of learning the self-publishing trade. What am I thinking? But I’m a firm believer in following your feelings. (Search your feelings, Luke, you know it is true, I am your father.  I know a few Star Wars quotes, courtesy of one of my sons!)

I know some of my close followers will be disappointed, but I’m hoping they will be supportive too, once they know my reasons why. The main reason is that if I want to improve my writing, then I need to enlist some professional help. Previously, the cost of approaching a literary consultancy has put me off, but now I think about it, the same applies to anything. Learning to play tennis yourself is very different to coaching from a pro. You will get better with professional advice. However, it still doesn’t mean you will be a pro yourself, but you may get to county level or club level. And maybe going up that one level in my writing is what I need.

Tip – when you start writing your book, put away £5-£10 a month in a “writing fund”. This can be used in the future for literary advice, copy-editing or proofreading.

The chances are that after my “literary advice”, I may have to rewrite a lot of the book. That is another reason why I chose the self-publish option. Lets face it, you can get sick at the thought of editing the book again! But if rewriting will make the book better, surely I should do it? After a year of no editing, the thought of rewriting chapters does not seem as bad as before. Then there is the doubt again, what if I’m not good enough to rewrite it to the next level? Well, you don’t know till you try 🙂

The self-publish route is always open, but once you self-publish, the traditional publishing route becomes limited. I don’t think I have tried hard enough.

Read the following:

Step 2 Self-publishing

Enid Blyton sells millions of books worldwide and, if we listen to writing experts, apparently her writing is terrible. So there’s hope for us all – hey? Is a good story enough, or do you need to be a good writer, too? Common sense says the latter, as surely writing is a craft which improves over time? The problem is, as a would-be “good writer” trying to establish myself as a self-published author,  I am already thinking about all the mistakes that I have made as I write the first entry to this blog, and my brain is screaming at me to stop and to go back and to correct my grammar. As a blogger I am thinking do I really care if I miss out commas, question marks and write terribly constructed sentences? And here lies my first dilemma. Yes I do care, but not enough to pay someone to grammar check my blog, or to spend hours rewriting my blog 🙂 I would much rather spend that time writing my second book, or in my case, checking through the proof which arrived (finally!) in the post today – hurray!

(My second dilemma – will a reader of my blog mind if I use smiley faces?)

NOTE – it took almost 4 weeks to receive my proof through the post from Createspace (CS). Factor this into your timescales, unless you plan on paying for premium postage. Does it help if I put all the important bits in bold, so you can skip the other bits?

The facts are:

Terrible writers have written bestselling books.

Great writers have written books that nobody reads.

Truthfully? I’d be happy to fall into either category.

My guide on how to be a great writer:

Read, read and read some more (wish I had more time to read).

Write, write and write some more (wish I had more time to write).

Step 2 Self-Publishing

If you think there is just one guide out there that tells you everything that you want to know, then you are mistaken. Everybody’s journey in life is different, and so is everybody’s journey in self-publishing. Some of you may already have written a book, some of you may be further along (like myself). I found the following useful on my journey:

Writers’ &Artists’ Yearbook

Writers’ &Artists’ Yearbook Guide to Getting Published.

Collins Improve Your Grammar

Self-Printed: The Sane person’s Guide to Self-Publishing (written by a self-published author, Catherine Ryan Howard) (e-book)

Building your book for kindle (e-book)

Publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle (e-book)

Forums on createspace

Youtube tutorials (on photoshop elements, mainly, but it’s also helped with my blogging!)

General googling whenever I was stuck. What would we do without the internet?

Step 1 Self-Publishing

If you have stumbled across this blog in hope of finding help about self-publishing, then you have come to the right place. To save you the pain of reading through all of my blog when you really don’t care about what I write, yes, I can hear you, just tell me what I need to know so I can leave your site! Well thanks for visiting and here’s what you need to know…

My guide to self-publishing:

Step 1

1)      Talk yourself out of it and take up knitting. You’ll make more money selling your knitted items on ebay.

2)      If you don’t have a computer – take up knitting and sell your items on ebay.

3)      If you have a computer but are computer illiterate – take up knitting and sell your items on ebay.

4)      If you have a computer and are reasonably comfortable about using a variety of software packages and navigating around the world of internet and social media, then progress to the next step of my guide.