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Sue Archer

Wordsmith | Editor

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self-publishing

Fortune’s Shadow Out in Paperback

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all staying healthy and safe. What a year 2020 is turning out to be! I know I’ve found it difficult on many days to concentrate on reading, never mind writing. And yet both of these things are still helping me manage the challenges of this year.

So even though it feels odd to be promoting my work at this time, I thought I should let you know that my urban fantasy novel Fortune’s Shadow is finally available in paperback from Amazon. (It was a true joy to finally hold the proof copy in my hands!)

Paperback links:

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Amazon UK

Or if you prefer an ebook from Kindle, Kobo, Apple, or other sources, you can find it here. (You can also request it from your library if they use Overdrive or CloudLibrary apps.)

Fortune’s Shadow ebook

Thank you to everyone who has already purchased it, read it, and left ratings and reviews. I’m honoured you put me on your reading list, and I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying it.

Work is slow on the sequel, but it’s going! I’ll be updating my progress here when I can and writing occasional blog posts.

How have you all been holding up? Do you have any books that that have been great reads for you during this time? I’d love to hear from you.

Take care,

Sue

Fortune’s Shadow Releasing Today!

Hi everyone,

Today’s the day, hurrah! My debut urban fantasy novel is finally out into the world and ready to be read. 🙂 It’s available at several major ebook retailers and is also being published on library catalogues if you’d prefer to request it through your local library (under ISBN 9781777085629).

Is my book for you? If you like the idea of reading about

  • An indie musician trying to make it big
  • A magical wish gone sideways
  • A secret from the past
  • A small town full of fun characters
  • A supernatural showdown

then I’d be honoured if you chose to spend time with Jocelyn and all the other characters I have grown to love.

For those of you who may be wondering, since this is the first book in the Nexus Chronicles: it is a standalone story, and I’ve been told it has a satisfying ending. 🙂 However the threads are there for future tales from the town of Bridgepoint, and I’m working towards writing and publishing at least two more. So if you read my book and enjoy it, I would be very grateful if you could leave a rating or review or share the news with friends.

This has been such a long time coming—I’ve been wanting to publish a fantasy novel since forever. Thank you to everyone who helped me get here!

And thank you, readers, for taking a chance on a new author. I hope you enjoy my book as much as I have enjoyed writing it!

All the best,

Sue

Fortune’s Shadow: Seven Lessons Learned from Self-Publishing

Last year, I wrote a post about my goal to publish my first novel by May 2020. I am happy to be able to say I have achieved that goal. I’m even slightly ahead of schedule! Fortune’s Shadow, my debut urban/paranormal fantasy novel, is now available for preorder at multiple ebook retailers (including Kobo, Apple, and Amazon) and will be released into the world on April 26th!Fortune's Shadow by Sue Archer

With exactly one week to go until launch day, I thought I’d share seven lessons I’ve learned from going through the process of self-publishing my first novel. (I hope that this will help any of you who may be thinking about doing the same!)

1) Don’t worry if you can’t write every day. You’ll still get there.

One of the things that initially stopped me from fulfilling my dream of publishing my first novel was my stubborn belief that I just didn’t have the time. And when I did have the time, I felt pressured, which made it difficult to have the mental energy to be creative. I was surrounded by all this advice implying that you had to write every day. But by the time I was finished my work day, there was no way I was in the mood to sit down at a computer (again!) and write.

So I made a deal with myself: Every Saturday morning, I would sit down and write a scene. One scene. Sometimes I could finish it that morning. Sometimes it took more time throughout the weekend. But the ability to start and finish a chunk of writing every week made me feel positive about my progress and allowed me to set things aside during my work week without having to feel like I was leaving loose threads lying around. The next week, I’d look over what I’d done the week before, make a few edits, and then write the next scene. It took months to get through it. But every week was progress.

2) Have at least some idea of an outline as you write.

I know some people are pantsers and prefer to just write and write until all of their ideas are down, without worrying too much about where it’s going. That is perfectly fine, but frankly, the thought of having to spend time rewriting my story multiple times based on a messy first draft was overwhelming to me. I barely had enough time to write as it was! So I bought Scrivener, which is a useful tool for mapping out an overall rough plot structure (although you can do the same thing in Word), and created some plot milestones based on the wonderful writing resource Save the Cat.

At first those plot milestones were simply words on a virtual card with no content. When I started, I only had a clear idea of the first four chapters and the midpoint. But as I wrote each scene, I was able to gradually fill out the rest of the details, and being able to write from Point A to Point B made finishing an entire novel achievable.

3) Don’t be afraid of feedback.

Self-published books are sometimes perceived as having lower quality than traditionally published books because they haven’t been through the “official” gatekeepers of publishing. But you don’t need your book to go through a gatekeeper to know if it’s any good. What you need to know is that your book will be enjoyed by the ultimate judges of your work—the people who will buy your book. I was determined to make sure I wrote something that stood up to the level of traditionally published books purchased by my intended audience.

Was I afraid of sending my words out to multiple people for judgment ahead of publication? Of course. But I did it anyway, because I wanted to know the truth before I published it, not after. I sent my draft to several people for beta reading. When I reviewed all the feedback, I found that some people commented on the same big things (plot refinement ahead!), while others found different smaller things to improve based on their individual experiences. In the end, almost all of the feedback I received was useful and positive, and it energized me as I updated my draft to make it an even better story. It is truly thanks to those beta readers that my story shines.

4) Line up your publication team well ahead of your release date.

When you’re self-publishing, you’re not just the writer—you’re the publisher. That involves a lot of steps, and I had many things to keep track of as I pulled together my project plan. I did this while I was still writing my first draft, so I could figure out how I was going to get my book out by my release date. The timing of some of the activities was flexible because I could handle the details myself (getting my ISBNs, drafting my author blurb, formatting my ebook), but there were other things where I would need to bring in experts: my editor, my cover designer, my proofreader, and my interior designer for the print version (which will be out in the summer—stay tuned!).

The average time I had to book people ahead? Four months. Why? Because the people I wanted to work with are excellent professionals who are in demand.

Because I planned ahead, I was able to get a fabulous cover from the amazing Ravven, truly insightful line and copy editing comments from fiction editor Maggie Morris, a thorough final proofread from Jess Shulman and a beautiful interior design from Krista Walsh.

5) Use your opportunity to learn new skills.

Self-publishing your novel can be a test of your confidence. I knew there were things I would be absolutely hopeless at—like designing a professional cover—so I made a deliberate decision to go with someone else. But what about other things? Could I really format my own ebook, when I knew nothing about epub coding?

I decided this would be a great time to find out. I took an excellent seminar series on ebook production by Editors Canada that helped take the anxiety out of understanding ebook coding and publishing. And although I ended up submitting my Word document through Draft2Digital’s epub conversion tool, this was only the first step, and I was able to then use my training to fix formatting issues and make my book look perfectly presentable. (When I do this again, I may even get fancier!)

6) Consider going wide.

I know some self-publishing folks go exclusively with Amazon and that works for them. I wanted to publish more broadly (especially during this time, when book publishing in general is being challenged), but I wasn’t sure if this would affect my sales. Then I read something interesting from a fellow Canadian author, who mentioned that they consistently get more sales from Kobo than they do from Amazon, because Kobo (through Indigo) is a big component of the Canadian ebook market.

Makes sense, I thought.

In the end, I set myself up with both Kobo and Amazon under their direct royalty structure and then distributed my ebook to other retailers and libraries through the Draft2Digital platform, which takes a 15% cut of my royalties but manages everything for all the other platforms.

My book isn’t out yet, but based on preorders alone, I am getting more sales through Kobo than I am through Amazon. I’m also higher up on the listings of their Contemporary Fantasy category because the market is smaller, and there are more chances that someone browsing will spot my book. I’m getting sales through Apple, too!

Obviously you need to find a strategy that works for you, but so far I’m really happy about how this is turning out.

7) Enjoy your moment in the sun!

This is such a weird time to be publishing a book. I can’t release the print version yet because proofs of physical books are being delayed. Everyone is going through personal (and often financial) challenges. Book retailers are struggling. Publishers are delaying launches. I almost didn’t go ahead.

But when I mentioned this to my friends on Twitter, they told me how much they appreciated seeing my excitement about my book during this time. They felt this was exactly the right time for an entertaining escape read. And since my book is going to be available for library distribution, anyone who wants to read it but can’t buy it can ask for it at their library instead, which I love, since the library is my happy place.

So I decided to go for it, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. My dream is coming true, and nothing can stop it!

I believe it’s more important than ever to enjoy our creative achievements right now. So don’t be afraid to share your good news and market your work.

And if you’re writing that novel, and you’re just not there yet, please know that I’m cheering you on all the way. 🙂

 

Sue

Coming Full Circle

I haven’t posted here for a while. At first, it was because I was taking on a lot of editing work—which was a wonderful reason not to have time to write! It’s been such an incredible experience collaborating with my indie clients to help them craft their stories, whether through the big-picture view of manuscript assessments or the nuts and bolts of stylistic and copy editing. I also had the opportunity to work on multiple series, and it was so much fun celebrating along with my authors whenever each new book was published.

Then something happened. As I experienced my authors’ passions for writing tales about kick-butt swords-for-hire or snarky urban sorceresses or courageous vampires or assassins with a fear of blood, it rekindled something in me—my desire to write my own urban fantasy novel. But I knew I was never going to get around to it if I didn’t even have the time to write blog posts!

So I made a conscious decision to only take on manuscript assessments going forward, and I set to work at seriously writing a draft of my own first novel after many years of starts and stops.

The indie authors I work with are the most generous people I have ever met. Now that I am the one jumping into the fray, they have been so supportive, offering advice and cheering me on. I have been so inspired by them, and I am thrilled to be working towards self-publishing my own story.

In Ottawa at the Byward Market with the talented Krista Walsh! (That's Krista on the left and me on the right.)
In Ottawa at the Byward Market with the talented Krista Walsh! (That’s Krista on the left and me on the right.)

Recently, I saw a Twitter post from an editor who was advertising her services by calling herself “100% editor”—someone who wasn’t a writer, and therefore would be a better choice as an editor because she was solely focusing on her clients.

As you might guess, I am viewing things a different way. I feel that by coming full circle, through experiencing the same challenges that my clients have faced in trying to bring their best stories to their readers, it can only make me a better editor.

I’m continuing to enjoy doing manuscript assessments, since I love working with structure and looking at how all of the aspects of a story can be reassembled to make it even stronger.

At the same time, I am writing, and I am so pleased to be able to say I have completed a full draft of my novel, which I am hoping to publish in May 2020!

I’m also going to do my best to write the occasional blog post again and share my thoughts on editing, writing, and self-publishing as I go through this new challenge.

Thank you to everyone reading this. I hope to post again soon! (Or at least, sooner than before!)

All the best,

Sue

 

 

How Can I Afford Professional Editing?

Today I have a guest post on Andrew Knighton’s wonderful writing blog. I am sharing some tips on how to minimize the costs of professional editing. If you’re thinking about publishing a book but have been daunted by the thought of overwhelming editing expenses, I encourage you to take a look!

Editing
Picture by Joanna Penn via Flickr Creative Commons

Why You Should Try a Style Sheet

A style sheet is a critical tool that an editor uses to maintain consistency throughout a manuscript. Style sheets are not just for editors, though — writers also benefit from using them, both during the self-editing stage and when collaborating with a professional editor.

What exactly is a style sheet?

A style sheet is a place for capturing stylistic decisions on items such as spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. A style sheet is used by an editor to confirm that the appropriate style is being applied consistently throughout the entire work. The editor refers to it constantly, checking for accurate spelling and capitalization on all key terms and validating all stylistic decisions.

A style sheet is typically in the form of a simple text document. It consists of three main pieces:

  • An overview, which describes the work being edited and any style guides or dictionaries that will be used while editing.
  • Details on decisions relating to capitalization, punctuation, and other stylistic concerns (such as the use of abbreviations and italics).
  • A list of important words, including all proper names and unusual terms.

Why should I use a style sheet?

Supporting Quality and Consistency

By using a style sheet as part of your self-editing process, you can catch errors in the names of characters and places and smooth out any consistency issues that may jar your readers.

Style sheets are particularly valuable for authors who are writing a series. Once a style sheet is established for the first book, it can then be applied to future works.

Maintaining Control

With a traditionally published book, it’s the publisher who decides what style should be used in the manuscript, and the resulting rules are applied to the style sheet. Self-publishing authors, in contrast, have the freedom to decide how they want their writing to look. That’s not to say that their editors can’t provide stylistic advice — they definitely should — but the author has the final say.

When you provide your work to an editor without a style sheet and don’t make your preferences clear from the beginning, it will be harder for you to maintain stylistic control. Your editor has to guess at your stylistic preferences based on what he or she finds in the manuscript.

Preventing Issues

Your editor may have different ideas about style than you do. When you get your manuscript back, you don’t want to find out that some of your carefully capitalized words have been painstakingly lower-cased or that American spelling has been applied when most of your readers are in the UK. This will mean extra work for both you and your editor, which could result in higher fees. It pays to think up front about any preferences you may have, and call them out.

American quilt
A style sheet is like a quilt pattern — it pulls everything together into a coherent whole.

So how do I get started?

You may not have specific preferences about all the stylistic elements that an editor deals with. However, there are some common elements that you should probably think about (and write down on that style sheet). Please feel free to use my Style Sheet Template to capture your thoughts.

Overall Style Preference

Do you want your editor to use a specific style guide? The Chicago Manual of Style, for example, is a popular style guide for trade books.

Should American, British, Canadian, or another spelling style be applied?

Style Details

Are there words that need to be capitalized even though they are usually in lower case?

When should italics be used?

Do you have any preferences for the use of commas in certain situations (such as whether to use the serial comma)?

Do you have any preferences about the formatting of other punctuation marks, such as dashes or ellipses?

Word List

Have you noted all the following in an alphabetical word list?

  • People / character names
  • Place names
  • Words that have unusual treatment (such as capitalization or abbreviation)
  • Rare or difficult words
  • Invented words

With these questions answered, you have the makings of a good style sheet. Now it’s time to chat with your editor and make sure you are both on the same page.

***

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

If you have used a style sheet, did you find it helpful?

If you haven’t, do you plan to use one? I encourage you to take a look at my Style Sheet Template to help get you started.

I’m happy to answer any of your questions about style sheets – just leave a comment below.

The Many Ps of Book Marketing

The following is a post about book marketing from my Doorway Between Worlds blog that I thought I should share here. I hope you find it useful!

Doorway Between Worlds

I love learning, and the Editing Goes Global conference was a great opportunity to pick up all sorts of useful knowledge. Last week, I shared some tips from editor Arlene Prunkl on how to write good comments. Today, I want to pass along some nuggets of wisdom I learned from Beth Kallman Werner in her session “The Many Ps of Book Marketing.”

Ms. Werner has worked as the Director of Sales and Marketing at Kirkus and is the founder of Author Connections. She has over twenty years of experience in editing and marketing, and it definitely showed in her presentation. I was scribbling notes like mad. I couldn’t possibly include all of her thoughts here, but I thought I’d share some of the highlights.

Her session focused on the four Ps of marketing (product, position, price, and promotion) and how they relate specifically to book marketing.

Product

Werner…

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