This is the third installment of the continuing blog, “How to Write Your Own Ebook, Start to Finish.” You may want to re-read the first two (or read them first if you have not already done so) in order to gain some context about what follows.
Writing a book is a process containing a number of steps you take along the way towards producing a valuable final product, your awesome book! I have already covered the first three steps:
- Personal affirmation
After step three is completed, you have finished writing your book. But wait! There are a number of different levels to the word “finish”. In this case, you have completed the first draft of the book. Your story is there, it’s on paper, it’s looking great, and you have accomplished much. Give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it!
But your tale is a little rough and ragged around the edges.
There is still much to do in order to transform your first draft into the valuable final product you have in mind. But before we get started, I want to give you a tip about how you should format your book. I am assuming you are using a word processor. I use Microsoft Word. I don’t really know about other word processors, so I am writing this blog within that context. Now, you will probably want to use Amazon and Smashwords to put your book out onto the internet for sale. They require you to submit your Word document in a certain format. You should download this free book onto your reading device. It gives you all the information you need to properly format your book file.
Because I did not know about this at first, I wasted quite a bit of time reformatting my “completed” book. It’s better and more efficient to write your book in the correct format from the very start.
Publishing an eBook is a ten-step process. So far we have completed the first three. What remains to be done is:
- Second Draft
- Book Cover
- Publishing Company (purchase ISDN’s)
- Internet Identity (website, twitter, facebook)
- Upload your book
You should take some time to bask in the glory of actually having completed your book. But now it’s time to get back to work. You start by reading your book; and it won’t take very long for you to realize that while “completed”, it’s not anywhere close to being done. So as you are reading, you are asking yourself these questions:
- Eliminate any typos, misspellings, and just plain bad English grammar. OK, it’s not a question, but this should always be at the forefront of your mind.
- Is it written at the correct level of detail? Have you written at the 30,000 foot level when the story actually needs to be told at the “boots on the ground” level?
- Is the book consistent throughout? Does what you write in chapter 10 contradict what you penned in chapter 4?
- Is the story’s time track feasible? If the army needs to march to a position 100 miles away, how long should it take? It can’t happen in a day. HINT: Create a spreadsheet. The rows represent time. The columns stand for the various threads in your story. So at 4:00pm Gen. Jackson (one thread) is here, and Col. Chambliss (another thread) is there, and so forth. Your story has to hold up from a time perspective.
- Do you see pictures in your mind as you are reading? If not, then add weather, landscape features, sound, smells, feelings, facial looks, etc. Keep drilling down until the pictures begin to appear. You want your reader to see pictures in his/her mind’s eye, not just words on a page.
Based on the answers to these questions, you will be revising your initial first draft.
There are probably more bullet points, but it’s a good list to start with. You can develop your own points.
You have revised that first draft, and you think the book is in pretty good shape. It’s now time to send the book out to 3-5 friendly readers. I am more of a security nut, so to protect the propriety of my hard-earned work I sent out printed copies of the book, not the electronic file. I think that is the safest thing to do.
What is the purpose of friendly readings? It’s to use a safe and supportive audience to test the viability of your book. You are looking for positive feedback, primarily discovering whether or not your story was interesting and your readers enjoyed reading it. It’s a good idea to include a list of question with the manuscript that your readers can answer. These questions should relate directly to your story. Here’s one example from my own questionnaire:
Do the characters in the novel seem like real people or do they seem like paper dolls? What characters are strong in your opinion? Who is weak?
Based upon the feedback from that question, I discovered that Jed Farmer, a fictional private in Colonel Beale’s cavalry regiment was very popular. I originally had him being killed at the end of the book. But because of his popularity with the readers, I changed a couple of sentences and voila! Jed Farmer lives again and will be reappearing in the second book.
It’s also a good idea to put a time limit on your readers. I think that 6-8 weeks is enough time for your readers to finish reading the book.
Your questions should help you ascertain the strong points and weak points in the story. But I believe it is a good idea to engage each reader in verbal conversation as well. Find out their viewpoints and from that figure out how the book can be made even better.
But if the story itself is interesting and enjoyable to read, then your book is golden!
HINT: Select your readers with care. The word “friendly” means one who is positive by nature and supportive of you, that is, really wants you to be a successful author. At the same time, your reader should be someone you can trust to be honest with you about his/her feelings for the book.
You have revised the second draft of your book and you are feeling pretty good about the positive feedback you received from your friendly readers. It’s time to send the manuscript to a professional editor.
Having a good, experienced book editor is an important and necessary step in the process. However, book editing is not cheap. I’m sure the editor is worth every penny you pay for his/her services, and I hope you set aside a budget for editing.
Unfortunately, I have little experience to share about this process. I did not have the budget for an editor. But this step in the process doesn’t just go away. It’s still there, and needs to be done. What’s the solution? You SELF-edit.
Self-editing requires a high level of discipline, dogged determination, and unrelenting persistence. It means reading and re-reading your book over and over again. I read Confederate Star Rises five, six, seven times; maybe more, I lost count. How many times you re-read the book is really a function of your own personal quality standard. For me, I kept reading and revising, reading and revising, until I only had to make a handful of revisions. Then I knew the book was ready for publication.
Hiring an editor means you can work on steps 7, 8, and 9 while the book is being edited. If you self-edit, you cannot really start these steps until you finish the editing process — unless you figure out how to split yourself in two!
Self-editing delayed actual publication of Confederate Star Rises by 4-5 months. I would not recommend you go this route.
I certainly intend to have a professional editor edit my next book, Confederate Star Strengthens, which I am currently working on.
There is a lot to say about the subject of writing your own eBook. I feel like I am just scratching the surface. But this is a blog, not a book, and it looks like I have once again exceeded my word limit.
One more blog to go.
Richard Small is the author of Confederate Star Rises, an alternate historical fiction novel, where a change to a single event in history alters the outcome of the American Civil War. Visit Richard’s author website at RichardSmallAuthor.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.