Cover design: One Service Indie Authors Can’t Afford to Skimp On

Cover design is one service new and aspiring indie authors can’t afford to skimp on. We often start out with limited resources, trying to decide which services we need, and which we can do without.

There are many things you can do on your own if you are patient and willing to learn. However, unless you are an accomplished artist or graphic designer as well as a writer, you will want to choose a professionally made cover. A poorly designed cover can cause readers to overlook or turn away from a book that might otherwise have great content inside.

Your cover is the first thing readers will notice about your book. It needs to be attention-grabbing and indicative of what the readers will find inside. It needs to hook people. It is said that the cover is what gets readers to pick up the book and flip it over to read the synopsis on the back cover, and it’s the synopsis on the back that convinces the reader to look inside.

Aside from the art itself, there are other considerations that should not be overlooked. These include, but aren’t limited to, color scheme, font, text size, and how easy it is to see the art and text when the cover is in thumbnail size on Amazon. Get any of these wrong, and it could negatively affect your book sales.


There are different alternatives to book cover creation, and prices can vary greatly. You can buy a pre-made book cover from a reputable site by choosing from a large variety of options. You choose a cover that fits with your book, and the artist will add your author name and book title. You can find some relatively inexpensive covers this way, but the end price will depend on the artist and/or cover you choose, and whether you are looking for an eBook cover, paperback cover, hardcover, audiobook cover, or some combination of these.

The Book Cover Designer,,  is a site where you can purchase pre-made covers from a large selection. You can choose from featured covers or browse by genre or artist. Once a cover is sold, it will never be sold again, so you don’t have to worry about another author ending up with the same cover as you.

I purchased my cover for my Seers Series short story collection, The Guardians of Sterrenvar from this site. I happened upon an attention-grabbing cover that fit perfectly with my series. I originally only ordered the eBook cover, since I intend to add to the collection before releasing the paperback version. However, the artist has expressed willingness to add the paperback version when I am ready for it – for a fee, of course.

Some other sites I have found that sell pre-made covers, but with which I do not have personal experience, are:

There are plenty more out there still for those of you who wish to check out the options before deciding.

The other alternative is to find an independent book cover artist, which I did for the second edition of The Guardians of Eastgate. I found my cover artist on Twitter. I had seen her Twitter posts and examples of her work many times before I decided to contact her about contracting her services.

One benefit to this is that I will be using the same artist,,  for the subsequent books in the series, so that they are all uniform. She was also able to help me create my author and series logos, which will be included in all the books in the series. Also, I was able to be in contact with her regularly so that the cover fit with my vision, while still having that professional input.


There are a couple of drawbacks for this method for new indie authors, however. First, you need to make sure you’ve done your research, checked testimonials and reviews, looked at portfolios and so on. You can probably find an inexpensive cover artist on, for example, but that doesn’t guarantee you’ll end up with a quality cover. Do your homework.

Another drawback is that using a reputable cover designer to create an original cover from scratch can be more expensive and take more time than purchasing pre-made covers. The time and money cost will also depend on whether the cover designer works with photographs or creates original art.

One site I found where you can choose from pre-made covers or find an artist to work with to create your cover is They do formatting as well, which many cover artists will do.

In the end it comes down to what your budget is, what time line you are hoping for, and what you are looking for in a book cover. However, your book cover will be important enough, both for your professional reputation and your sales, for you to take it seriously and find yourself a professionally designed cover that is representative of both your book and yourself as an author.


Guest Post: LITERARY AWARDS for the LITTLE GUYS by James Gault


Last month, we published a survey of the main literary awards available to authors from the large established publishing houses. But how can new independent authors get artistic recognition for their work? The good news is that there is a wide range of competitions open to books from small independent publishers, including self-publishers. There is of course bad news: there is an entry fee for just about all of them, the prizes are small, and they don’t benefit from the wide publicity given to the likes of the Man Booker prize or the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Vox Lit wants to publicise these less well-known events. Not just because we love to champion the Davids against the Goliaths, or because we firmly believe that good quality innovative writing exists outside the closed world of the big names. We really want readers to know about these awards, and hopefully seek out the winners and short-listed authors and at least consider buying and reading their books. If we can encourage readers everywhere to expand their horizons, we’ll have done a good job in keeping the written word alive, flourishing and developing.

Most of the competitions are run by US organisations, and we’ve only found one currently active in the UK. The Rubery Book Award claims to be ‘the self-publishers’ and independent publishers’ answer to the MAN Booker Prize and the Costa Prize’. It offers awards in five categories (Non Fiction, Young Adult, Short Story, Fiction and Children’s) and the entrance fee is £36. You can find more on this competition at

In 2017, Amazon UK ran its Kindle Storyteller Award (more at the link below.) This was open to all previous unpublished books published on KDP, and unusually it had a significant prize (£20,000). Unfortunately, there is no sign so far of it being repeated in 2018. )

That about wraps it up for the UK, but if any of our readers know of other UK competitions please use the comments box to let us know.

While there seems to a paucity of UK awards, authors who live in the US are spoiled for choice, and we have included only a small selection here. And ,even if you are based in another country, these competitions tend to be open to all English speaking authors who have their work on sale in the USA.

The Benjamin Franklin Awards, run by the Independent Book Publishers Association, offers a comprehensive publicity package to winners but no cash prize. Authors don’t have to be a member of the Association to enter, but it will cost them a whopping $225 as opposed to the $95 entry fee for members. The link is .

The IPPY awards (  ) is another competition where the winners benefit only from publicity, with no direct injection  of cash into their pockets.

Eric Hoffer Award ( ) does offer a cash prize for the winner, $2000, and the entry fee is a more reasonable $55 (chapbooks $40). There is also the publicity benefit, as the award is covered by the US Review of Books.

The Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group organise the Next Generation Indie Book Awards ( ) with cash prizes of up to $1500 in many categories. Authors pay from $75 to enter this one.

Shelf Unbound book review magazine runs a competition with a prize of $500 and an entrance fee of $50 per title. Over 100 of the best entries will receive publicity in the magazine. The link is .

For a $50 fee, writers can enter the Best Indie Book (BIB) Awards ( ) where the prize is a package of publicity goodies rather than hard cash. The goody bag includes a rather smart digital winner’s medal that authors can put on their web pages and book covers.

Finally, in this far from comprehensive list, we’d like to mention the The Kindle Book Awards from the Kindle Book Review website. This offers winners in eight genre classes a publicity package similar to BIB and the added benefit of cash prizes up to $750, for an entrance fee of $29.

Our survey talks about only some of what is available, but for writers and readers wanting to know of more competitions, there is a fuller list published by the Alliance of Independent Authors at . This survey not only lists awards, but it rates them as well, so a big thanks to the authors of this page.

So there it is: a list of some literary awards you may never have heard of. Let us encourage you, as a reader or writer, to follow up on these competitions and widen your knowledge. It’s the best way to  participate in the fascinating and engrossing book world of the twenty-first century.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to Erica Verrillo  from  ‘Curiosity Never Killed the Writer’ (web site for her useful article on US awards.

Contributed by James Gault



James Gault

James Gault is an author of short stories, novels and English Language textbooks. He lived, worked and taught for many years in Prague, but now lives and continues to write in the South of France.

He also runs the blog Vox Lit, where authors post comments by their characters on aspects of real life.

His latest novel, The Redemption of Anna Petrovna, is due for release shortly.


Visit James Gault on Amazon Author Central:

Should You Edit While You Write?

Should You Edit While You Write?

Many first-time writers wonder if they should edit during the writing process. The simple answer, and the resounding consensus that you will hear online and in books, is NO.


Writing is an art. It is a creative process where you bring your story to life.


Writing is an art. It is a creative process where you bring your story to life. Editing, on the other hand, is more of a logical and methodical process, where you are looking at things like sentence structure, grammar, spelling, and the like.

I have read articles that claim that writing and editing use different areas of the brain, and if you try to do both at the same time it can be detrimental to the creative process. I have read other articles that say you actually use both the logical and the creative when writing.

I believe that the latter is true, but that the importance lies in what you are most focusing on in different stages of the writing and editing processes.

The general advice…is to put your nose to the grindstone and focus on getting your first draft done before moving on to the editing process.




The general advice is to put your nose to the grindstone and focus on getting your first draft done before moving on to the editing process. Of course, you are going to use some logic in plotting and structuring your book, but world, character, and story building – in other words, the creative aspect – will be your priority during the writing stage.

Once you go back to edit, you are going to focus on the details, such as spelling, grammar, structure, and so on, to make your creation as accurate and appealing as possible. It’s the cutting and polishing of the diamond you’ve just made.

There are certainly many benefits to approaching writing in this way. There will likely be less time to spend on worry and self-doubt as you just get your thoughts down on paper. Your mind will be focused on the story itself, thus allowing the story to flow naturally.


Is going back and re-reading the same as editing?


But what if you’ve been away from your book for some time due to work or family responsibilities or illness? Should you go back and read what you’d written previously? Is going back and re-reading the same as editing?

It depends on what your focus and goals are when you go back. If you go back and pick at the grammar and look for plot holes, for example, you would be venturing into the editing area. Try and stay away from the urge to do this before the first draft of your manuscript is complete.

To use myself as an example, I have a full-time day job where I often take work home with me. I also have two young children. There are times when I have to be away from my work-in-progress (WIP) for some time. Because of this, I will often go back and re-read sections of what I have written.

I do this to get back into the world of the novel, to re-acquaint myself with my characters, and to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything that I could accidentally contradict going forward (this can happen more easily than you might think when you are writing 70,000 words plus).

What I don’t do at this point is any line, content, or structural editing. I don’t nit-pick the grammar, fact check, or edit the content. I will leave these for after I have completed the first draft.

Of course, it goes without saying that everyone is different, and what works for most may not work for all. And that’s okay. The general advice, as I said above, is to approach the crafting of your story and the editing of your story in different passes, and this seems to work well for me.

In the end though, you need to find a process that works for you personally, and you will find it with time and practice.


In the end … you need to find a process that works for you personally, and you will find it with time and practice.



*All Images in this post are free photos from:

Sherry Leclerc is a science fiction and fantasy fanatic who lives in magical realms where swords and sorcery,

action and adventure, seers, shifters and sorcerers abound.


Click on the image to read my previous blog posts


Click to sign up for my author newsletter and recieve a FREE copy of my short story collection, THE GUARDIANS OF STERRENVAR


Click to purchase a copy of The Guardians of Eastgate on Amazon.



March 1, 2018

The following is an interesting article by guest author, James Gault, and was originally posted on The Voices of Literature website:


Concise Characterisation

Name of Books :
Hard Times, by Charles Dickens and Ogg by James Gault

The extracts:
The beginning of Dickens’ Hard Times, where we hear Mr Thomas Gradgrind’s speech to the pupils of the school.
‘NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!’ 
from Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Ogg and Antonia have been transported in time and place to a shady night club in fifties USA.
A squat balding fifty year old tuxedo with a cigar stood before them. 
“You havin’ a good time?  I ain’t seen you ‘round here before.”
“We’re from out of town,” Ogg drawled, and Antonia choked on her sparkling water.
“Well, you sure picked the right place for good entertainment. I’m Harry. Harry Biaggi. This is my joint.  D’ya like it?”
“Well, yeah, Harry, I do. It’s a real nice place you got here.”
“We try to be classy. Howd’ya find us.” Harry snapped his fingers as he said this and a bow-tie appeared and slid a seat under him. He sat down.
from Ogg by James Gault

The explanation:
If we read the opening few pages of Jane Austin’s Emma we see a common way for authors to introduce characters. Emma’s family, biography and character are presented to us in intimate detail, and before we start her story we feel we know her like a good friend already, and we can sympathise with her successes and failures and feel the delights and angst which follow. For this particular novel, the detailed early establishment of the character is important because the author needs to arm us with the tools to judge Emma.
This kind of approach to characterisation is out of fashion now: it slows up the action and needs inspired writing to keep the reader’s attention, and is especially distracting for any but the very main characters.

Nowadays, we expect to discover our characters rather than be asked to judge them. We expect to get to know the characters slowly as we read their story. We form first impressions, then we develop these impressions and sometimes we misjudge and need to correct our assessments. The discovery of the characters is as important to us as the development of the plot.  The characterisation is drip fed to us, and the personality of each individual has to permeate each part of the story.
For protagonists that first impression is of prime importance, while for minor roles it is the only information we get. So we expect the author to imbue our first meetings with the characters with indications of what kind of people they are: by what they say, by what they do or by both.

The excerpt from Hard Times is only six short sentences of dialogue, but how much does it tell us about the speaker? He is self-opinionated, he at least claims to be rational, he expects to be listened to and obeyed. He speaks in short sharp sentences, in commands and assertions. No debate is permitted. We don’t know what he looks like, we don’t even know his name, but already we don’t expect we’re going to like him very much.

In the second extract, all the elements are employed to create an impression of Mr Biaggi: description, dialogue and actions.  All of this is condensed into a short dialogue. Biaggi is presented as middle aged and overweight but well dressed. He has the strong accent of a man from the gutter who has made it to the top – others jump to satisfy his every wish. But he also has an aura of feeling inferior: he is anxious to please and be liked and appreciated. In the novel his is a walk on part, we never meet him again, but he leaves an impression and sets the tone for what follows.

The point of both extracts is to note the denseness of the character information which is presented at the same time as the plot is developed. The reader has to work hard to catch all the points, but the ongoing development of the story never flags. This is what I am calling Concise Characterisation.

Contributed by James Gault


James Gault

James Gault is an author of short stories, novels and English Language textbooks. He lived, worked and taught for many years in Prague, but now lives and continues to write in the South of France.

He also runs the blog Vox Lit, where authors post comments by their characters on aspects of real life.

His latest novel, The Redemption of Anna Petrovna, is due for release shortly.


Visit James Gault on Amazon Author Central:


How long should my debut novel be?


When I was writing the first edition of my first novel, a big question for me was how long should a debut novel be?

One of the first places I went to try to figure this out was Wikipedia. What I found out there was that writing over 40,000 words is considered a novel, but beyond that, it can vary greatly.


Classification Word count
Novel 40,000 words or over
Novella 17,500 to 39,999 words
Novelette 7,500 to 17,499 words
Short story under 7,500 words


There are a number of factors that can affect the length of your novel, such as genre and whether you plan to self-publish or are looking for a traditional publisher. If you are looking for a traditional publisher, it is also important to note that different publishers may be looking for different minimum word counts. On the flip side, if your manuscript is what they consider to be too long, the publisher may ask you to cut some of it out.

During the process of writing my first book, I read articles and spoke to people in the industry that suggested that a new, unknown author keep their first novel short, for a couple of reasons.


First of all, many publishers are looking for shorter novels for untested authors due to cost and so on, and longer novel lengths are typically reserved for authors who have already proven themselves.


I also read that a shorter novel might better entice readers to give your book a try, as they won’t have to commit to buying a longer and potentially more expensive book by an author they have never read before.

For the first edition of my novel, then, I kept it short at about 60,000 words. However, I felt it needed more fleshing out, and this thought was echoed in a review or two of the book.

When I decided to hire a graphic artist to do the book covers for the entire series, I also decided to re-do the cover of the first book so that the series would look more uniform. This would mean publishing a second edition, and I took this opportunity to develop my story a little more.

In the end, my second edition ended up at around 72,000 words and is, in my opinion, much improved from the first edition. This is still on the short side for my genre, which is fantasy. However, I followed the advice I was given or had read in the beginning concerning first novels and decided to keep it on the short side.

On the flip side of that, I recently read an article that listed publishers who consider new authors. Each of these had minimum word counts well above the numbers I had originally been given or found. However, I have read numerous other articles and books since that repeat this advice.

And, yet again, there are still many publishers who don’t seem to recommend a particular word count.


What take-away messages did I get from all this?

  • Length is linked in large part to the genre you are writing in. 
  • There really is no true consensus.


Here is a list of some do’s and don’ts that I learned along the way and would like to pass on to aspiring authors:

DO base the length of your novel on what feels right for your story.

DON’T base the length on factors such as how much the per word cost for editing is.

DO think of the submission guidelines of traditional publishing houses you may wish to submit to or are hoping to catch the eye of with your self-published novel.

DON’T assume all publishing houses are looking for the same thing.

DO think of the purpose and audience of your book when deciding word count. Are you writing fiction or non-fiction? If fiction, which genre, and what age group?

DON’T write a super long book for children, or super short for adults.


And the biggest DO of all:

DO what works best for your particular story.


Below is a list of links to some articles I’ve read relating to word count:


Sherry Leclerc is a science fiction and fantasy fanatic who lives in magical realms where swords and sorcery,

action and adventure, seers, shifters and sorcerers abound.



Click on the image to read my previous blog posts


Click to sign up for my author newsletter and recieve a FREE copy of my short story collection, THE GUARDIANS OF STERRENVAR


Click to purchase a copy of The Guardians of Eastgate on Amazon.

Planning or Pantsing? Which Approach to Writing Works Best?

Planning or Pantsing? Which Approach to Writing Works Best?

Are you a planner or a pantser?

The first time I ever heard the term “pantsing” was when I joined a writer’s group, and most of my fellow group members  had decided to take part in NaNoWriMo.

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a writing competition that takes place in November, where participants are challenged to both start and complete the first draft of a manuscript within that month.

Of course, you can prepare ahead of time by planning and outlining your story, building your characters and so on. However, the actual writing is not to start until November begins. I hadn’t planned on taking part in 2017, and I changed my mind at the last minute. Through our chat in writers’ group that evening, I discovered that made me a pantser.

You are a pantser if you start writing cold, with no preparation or outlining, no purposeful choosing of plot points or structure, or so on. You just sit with a notebook and pencil, or sit in front of your computer, and you just go for it!

I also realized that this was how I wrote my first novel. At the time, I worried that if I thought too much about the technical aspects of writing, I would feel overwhelmed and it would stifle my creativity. However, I had the storyline in my head for over twenty years before I put it down on paper, so I already had a pretty good handle on the premise, plot points, characters, and so on, even if I didn’t have my ideas on paper in any real, organized fashion.

I also went ahead and published the first edition of my first novel, The Guardians of Eastgate, with the help of an assisted self-publishing company. It was a Canadian company called Tellwell, based in Victoria, BC. As part of my agreement with them, I purchased a substantive edit, which includes both copy editing and content editing. Also, I have a degree in Language and Literature. So, I was good to go, right?


It was after I sent that first book out to be published and was thinking about the second book in the series that I decided to take a closer look at all the technical elements. After all, though I had written plenty in the past, this was my first novel. It started with a book called, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Browne and King. From there I read Structuring Your Novel, by K.M. Weiland, and I am still reading anything I think will help me improve my craft, in both book and blog article form. And you know what? I started thinking, I can do better.

So, when I found a graphic artist to do all the covers for the series and I decided to re-do the first cover as well to keep the series uniform, I decided that would be a perfect opportunity for me to make some improvements in the story as well. As a result, the second edition of The Guardians of Eastgate is being released on the February 19th, 2018, and I feel it’s a much better, much more solid novel because of what I learned and the improvements it led to.


So, is planning or pantsing better? Does planning stifle creativity? Of course, each author must find their own methods and a system that works for them. But here are some advantages and disadvantages of each that I have discovered along the way.


Advantages of Planning:

  1. You will develop a greater understanding of your world and your characters before you start to write the story
  2. You will know what your plot points and pinch points will be ahead of time
  3. You will be able to see if the plots and subplots are adequate
  4. You can see and fix obvious plot holes before they happen
  5. You will have an opportunity for feedback that you can easily incorporate in the story
  6. It will be easy to track your progress and see the road ahead as you write
  7. You can choose the planning method that works best for you, with as much or as little detail as you like, as long as it helps you stay on track

Disadvantages of Planning:

  1. The challenge may seem daunting at first, and some authors, new authors in particular, may feel overwhelmed and give up
  2. It is a slower process
  3. You may spend time developing a plan or outline that does not work in the end
  4. Despite your best-laid plans, your characters may have different ideas and make you veer off-course
  5. It might stifle creativity by causing writers to think too much about structure and grammar instead of letting the story flow naturally
  6. The author may be less flexible and less open to new ideas that come up during the writing process

Advantages of Pantsing:

  1. You can get into writing your story right away!
  2. The writing process may be faster and smoother because you are letting it flow freely
  3. The story flows organically, allowing more opportunity to come up with novel ideas
  4. You will have less stress, since you are worrying less about the technical aspects of writing
  5. You are less likely to over-think or over-complicate things

Disadvantages of Pantsing

  1. Some authors may feel like they don’t know where to begin, or don’t know what they are doing
  2. Obvious plot holes might be missed until later on, when they could be more complicated to fix
  3. You may end up having to cut portions of the story because they do not work
  4. Plot points, subplots, character development, and so on, may be inadequate if you haven’t put the thought into it ahead of time
  5. You may end up with a weaker story line than you would have if you had planned it
  6. Writing your story may go faster in the beginning but end up taking much more time to revise and re-write on the back end


What are your thoughts on planning and pantsing? Which works best for you?

I will pin this question to my Facebook author page. Please feel free to visit and comment. Let’s start the conversation!


Sherry Leclerc is a science fiction and fantasy fanatic who lives in magical realms where swords and sorcery, action and adventure, seers, shifters and sorcerers abound.


Click on the image below to sign up for my newsletter and recieve a free copy of my Seers Short Stories (The Guardians of Sterrenvar)


Check out my Author page on Amazon for the Second Edition of the Guardians of Eastgate: Book 1 of The Seers Series, set to release on February 19, 2018


Click on the image below to enter the GOODREADS giveway for a signed paperback version of The Guardians of Eastgate. The giveaway ends on February 22nd, so hurry and sign up while there is still time!



Are you a new or aspiring author and you’re wondering, what is self-publishing? Have you decided on self-publishing but don’t know where to begin? Are you a traditionally published author who would like to have more creative control, so are now considering self-publishing?

Then, read on for some valuable information to help you decide if self-publishing is right for you.

To begin, let me summarize the information I gave you previously. In Issue # 1 of this blog series, I gave a brief overview of traditional publishing, assisted self-publishing and self-publishing.

In Issue # 2 I looked in more detail at assisted self-publishing, and I listed the services, or tasks that need doing, that assisted self-publishing companies can provide you the talent or services for.

Traditional publishing is signing on with a publishing house that will cover the associated costs and provide the expertise to get your book from manuscript to published work. They take on the financial risk, as well as the taking the time and resources to get your book from manuscript to published book. That is why they claim royalties and then pay the author.
*If a publisher asks you to pay for services while also asking you to sign a contract, they are not a true publishing house, and this should be a big flashing warning light.

Assisted self-publishing is when you pay a company to find or provide these services for you. You take on the financial risk, so the company should NOT charge you a print cost above the actual printer’s cost, and they should NOT claim any royalties. Also, remember, if they provide ISBNs and a domain name for you, then chances are they are listed as publisher of the book and owner of the domain name, so you should probably get these for yourself.

For true self-publishing, you take it upon yourself to do as much of the above as possible, and to find and pay for the right people to get each of the tasks done that you can’t do yourself. You again take on all the financial risk, but this time, you will have no company guiding you along the way or putting you in touch with all the right people you need to get everything done. So, if you are new at the game, you will need to be patient, willing to deal with a steep learning curve, and willing to take the necessary time to learn everything you need to learn and find the people you need to get it done.

I would also add a couple of steps along the way for self-published authors.


Steps for self-publishing your book:

  1. Finish your manuscript. Just write at this point. Do not edit while you write.
  2. Put the manuscript aside for a while. Some people suggest a couple of weeks, even months. I’m not that patient though, so I will say at least a few days to a week.
  3. Edit your manuscript.
  4. Get beta readers to read your book. Be specific in what you expect from them.
  5. Edit your manuscript again based on the feedback from the beta readers.
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 if necessary
  7. Find and hire people to do the cover and interior design. This process should actually be started somewhere between steps 1 and 6, as it could take a while.
  8. Hire a professional editor to edit your book.
  9. Revise your book based on your editor’s feedback (You don’t have to make every suggested change)
  10. Have your book proofread
  11. Buy ISBNs for each format of your book (in Canada, we get those for free)
  12. Create, or hire someone to create, the cover file(s) and interior file(s) needed to upload to the distributor (often, this is the cover designer, at least for the cover files).
  13. Create an account with your distributor(s) of choice and set it up
  14. Go over your distributor’s style guide to make sure your book files conform to their expectations
  15. Upload your book files to the distributor(s)
    *There is usually some turn-around time needed for the distributor to review and approve your file.
  16. If the files are not approved, fix them and re-submit
  17. If you are selling print copies, have one printed and sent to you so you can make sure there are no problems before releasing it for sale. This is called a proof copy.
  18. Marketing, which can actually start when you are in the process of writing, but should take place during and/or between all the other steps.

DON’T PANIC if this seems like a lot.

It’s because there are so many things to do, and so much I didn’t know, that I used assisted self-publishing for my first book. But if you have a limited budget, patience, and the time to put into it, there are many options and resources available that can make the process easier, and less expensive, for you. I will tell you about some of these in future posts.


In future issues:

  • Further explanations of the above steps and links to helpful resources

Please note that these are my own experiences and opinions. I am not saying my choices would be best for everyone. It is always a good idea to do your research.


Thanks for reading!

P.S. To sign up for my author newsletter in exchange for a free copy of my Seers Series short story collection, The Guardians of Sterrenvar, please click here.

P.S.S. To sign up for a chance to win a free copy of the Second Edition of The Guardians of Eastgate on Goodreads, please click here.


What Is Assisted Self-Publishing?

In my first issue of this blog thread, which I posted earlier this month, I talked to you a little about traditional publishing, assisted self-publishing, and self-publishing. Today, I will talk a little more about assisted self-publishing.

Once I finished writing the manuscript of the first novel I wished to publish, I was left with the question, “What next?” I knew there was a lot more to do, but I wasn’t sure where to start. Also, I have a full-time day job and two small children, which meant it would likely take me a long time to do the study and research needed to do it myself.

Normally, that wouldn’t be an issue for me. I love to learn, and I am interested in learning more about editing, self-publishing and so on. But this was a story I have had in my head for over two decades, and I wasn’t feeling patient enough to wait the months it would take to learn enough to do it myself. I knew I would eventually, but I just didn’t want to wait.

Finishing your manuscript is just the tip of the iceberg.
I quickly learned that the majority of the work comes after the final draft of your manuscript is done (if you can ever really call it ‘done’). And like the 90% of an iceberg that’s hidden underwater, a huge chunk of the process can be like a hidden mystery to those who have never done it before.

Finishing your manuscript is just the tip of the iceberg

Because of my lack of experience and my very busy schedule, the idea of assisted self-publishing intrigued me. So, I researched the names of some companies that offered this service, then started with reviews of said companies. This turned out to be a good idea, because I learned what to look for, as well as what to watch out for.

There are many things to do to get a book ready for publication, and assisted self-publishing companies can help with most of these steps.

Services offered by most assisted self-publishing companies:

  1. Editing.  You can choose editing options based on what you need and what you can afford. There is usually a per-word charge which varies according to the level of editing requested.
  2. Interior formatting and design. This step pretty much ensures your book is formatted correctly for print, eBook, or both, depending on what you want. It also makes sure it is easy to read and esthetically pleasing for readers. The price varies according to the format(s) you are publishing.
  3. Cover design and layout. Self-publishing companies offer this service as well, if you do not already have a cover image for your book
  4. Promotional materials. The designers can take the images from the cover and provide you with the files you will need to turn those images into bookmarks, business cards, signs and so on.
  5. Illustrators, if needed.
  6. Distribution. These companies will set up, or let you know how to set up, your distribution accounts with Print on Demand services, if required, and online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.
  7. Author website. Many assisted self-publishing companies can purchase a domain name for you, set up a basic website and get it hosted for you for a charge.
  8. Marketing. Assisted self-publishing companies do not do the marketing for you usually, but can provide you with valuable marketing advice. Again, for a fee.
  9. ISBNs. Assisted self-publishing companies can purchase ISBNs for your book. In fact, they often purchase ISBNs in bulk in order to save money. You may wish to purchase these yourself, however, to ensure you are listed as the publisher

CAUTION!!! Make sure you do your research before choosing a company to help you self-publish. Many will claim royalties, hold the copyright, etc. So, even though you are paying for their services out of your own pocket, you may end up not being listed as the publisher, not being the owner of your ISBNs or domain name, and so on. You may also end up losing some of your royalties to said company.

Pros of using an assisted self-publishing company:

  • They can provide the people/talent you need to get your book from manuscript to published book, so you do not need to spend countless hours searching for the people you need yourself
  • You can learn much about the process through interaction with your project manager and other people in the company who are knowledgeable in their fields
  • The assisted self-publishing company will provide the man hours needed for each step, when you yourself may not have the time to put into the process
  • They usually supply revision rounds, so you get some control of the project
  • All of the self-publishing companies I researched offered packages, so you can pick the price and the services you can afford

Cons of using an assisted self-publishing company:

  • Since they are getting paid to get your book published, you may end up with doubt about whether or not the editor has provided you with honest, or brutal enough, feedback. That might seem like a strange thing for an author to complain about, but it isn’t really. Not if you are truly interested in getting your best possible work out there.
  • You may not have direct contact with the various people working on your book, and may have to depend on a project manager and margin notes to get your feedback to the people it needs to get to
  • If the assisted self-publishing company purchases the ISBNs and the domain name for your website on your behalf, then chances are they will be listed as the owners, not you.
  • According to my research, most assisted self-publishing companies claim a royalty for what is supposed to be a ‘self’ published work
  • The services offered can be quite costly

I had a good experience overall with the company I chose and am, for the most part, happy I went that route for my first published work. I learned a lot, and my project manager was quick to get back to me when I had a question. I loved the cover of my book, which was created using stock photos and some input from myself. Also, once I realized my ISBNs and domain name did not technically belong to me, I contacted the company, who then helped me transfer ownership of the domain name from them to me. I can’t do much about the ISBNs for that book, unless I want to change my files and resubmit them, which would take more time and money.

However, I will likely not use an assisted self-publishing company in the future, for a few reasons. First of all, I’ve discovered that it is fairly easy to find independent editors, graphic artists, and so on, who charge less while still offering quality services, if you have the time to do your research. Secondly, since I am writing a series, I would like all the covers to be uniform, which would be very difficult to do with stock photos (Tellwell’s graphic designers use stock photos. I can’t speak for all the companies out there on this point, though). And lastly, lack of one-on-one, direct contact with my editor left a couple of my questions unanswered, which I feel ultimately affected the quality of the finished product.

In fact, the issue about cover uniformity for the series, coupled with the unanswered questions to my editor, led me to the decision to re-do my cover and update and expand my story in a second edition, without using an assisted self-publishing company to help me. I will tell you more about that in my next post.

In the next issue of Tips from a Self-Published Author Finding Her Way in the Dark:


  • What steps you will need to complete to get your book from manuscript to published work
  • Options for book formats and distribution channels
  • IngramSpark, CreateSpace and Smashwords

*PLEASE NOTE: My experience with assisted self-publishing beyond the initial research is limited to one company, They are a Canadian company based in Victoria, BC, and were the only company I found during my research who did not claim any royalties. Therefore, many of my observations are based, in large part, on my experiences with them. These are my own experiences and opinions. I am not saying my choices would be best for everyone. It is always a good idea to do your research.


I look forward to posting more blogs about self-publishing, for your information and enjoyment, in the future.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. Sign up for my author newsletter in exchange for a free copy of my Seers Series short story collection, The Guardians of Sterrenvar, here.

Sign up for a chance to win a free copy of the Second Edition of The Guardians of Eastgate on Goodreads here.

Traditional Publishing, Assisted Self-Publishing, or Self-Publishing?

Traditional Publishing, Assisted Self-Publishing, or Self-Publishing?

I published my very first novel, The Guardians of Eastgate: Seers Book I, this past summer. It was officially released for sale on all online platforms on August 30th. During the process of getting that first edition out to the public, and since then, I have learned a lot. And I’ve learned enough to know that there is still a lot more left to learn. It’s a never-ending process. I say ‘never-ending’ because there are always new things happening, so I expect I will never know everything there is about the subject.

In order to help other authors who are starting out and thinking about self-publishing, I decided to start writing this blog series. In it, I will tell you about the things I’ve discovered while stumbling my way through the dark.

In this first issue, I will talk to you a little about traditional publishing, assisted self-publishing, and self-publishing.

When I finished writing my first manuscript, I knew I would need it edited, formatted for print and eBook, and so on. Really, though, I was aware there was a lot to be done, but I didn’t know what it all was, or how to go about doing it. So, I searched online for help.

Some major benefits of going with a traditional publisher, I have learned, are that they take on the costs of publishing the book, and they provide editors, cover artists, and pretty much every other service that you need to get your story from manuscript to published book. So, it’s the publisher who takes on the risk of putting money into a book that may or may not make back the value of the investment.

Sounds great, right? Especially if you are a new author who can’t afford to carry all the costs yourself, or you don’t have the time to search for all the talent you need.

Well, it can be great, but there is also a flip side. Traditional publishing companies provide you with everything you need, but they also claim much of the royalties from the sales of the book. Of course, you can negotiate contracts most of the time, but some publishers will actually take up to 70% or more of the royalties. On top of that, the publishing house will most likely hold the copyright and take the creative control.

And, that’s assuming you can get a traditional publishing company to take you on in the first place. Did you know that when J.K. Rowling was looking for a publisher for her first Harry Potter book, she was turned down many times before a small publishing company decided to take a chance on her? And look where she is today.

There are two morals to that story.

First, never give up!

Second, don’t expect that you’ll find a company to take you on right away.

Publishing Companies can end up with more manuscripts sent to them than they can process. At the same time, though, some publishers don’t like it if you’ve sent the same manuscript out to other publishers to look at while it’s with them. Manuscripts can end up sitting for years on an editor’s desk before they even get the chance to look at them. Then, once they do, your manuscript may end up rejected, not because it wasn’t a good story, or because it wasn’t well-written. It could end up being rejected for reasons such as, how many manuscripts in your genre has the company taken on presently? What genres are selling well at that moment in time? And so on and so on.

However, you may never know why the manuscript was rejected. For example, one of the members of a Facebook writers’ groups I belong to recently wrote about how he had asked an editor that “why” question. He was told, in not a very nice fashion, to never ask that question again. So, you may end up sitting there, deflated, thinking your story is not good enough and/or your writing is not good enough. Of course, there is always the possibility that’s the case. But there is also the possibility that it was rejected for a completely different reason.

Many authors write query letters to the publishing company instead of submitting their manuscripts cold. A good query letter can help your book stand out, so it is a good idea to learn how to write one well if you are going with traditional publishing. Some authors also go the route of finding literary agents to take them on as clients. These agents can help make them more noticeable to traditional publishing companies. Again, you have to write query letters and be prepared to go to numerous agents before finding one who will take you on as a client.

Another thing I discovered is that there are many so-called “Assisted Self-Publishing” companies out there. However, many of them are linked to traditional publishers and, while you still have to pay for everything yourself since you are “self-publishing,” these companies still charge for services, and even claim royalties. In some cases, they claim much more than I would have expected, considering that the initial costs come out of the author’s own pocket. So, if you go this route, you have to be very careful in researching and choosing a company.

As for myself, I decided to go the assisted self-publishing route, in the beginning because, I had waited more than 25 years to get the story in my head down on paper, darn it! I didn’t want to take years more to get it out to the world. But, since I knew nothing, I decided to go the ‘assisted self-publishing’ route.

I know what you’re thinking. Why would I go that route after all the negative things I said about it above? Well, there were a couple of reasons. First of all, I had a book that needed publishing and not enough time or patience to learn to do everything myself. More importantly, I managed to find a Canadian company called Tellwell (, who provides the ‘talent’ (editors, layout people, cover designers, etc.), sets up distribution accounts, and various other things you might need, depending on how much you want to spend. And this was the ONE company I found who didn’t claim the copyright, and who did not take ANY royalties.

They can even, if you purchase that particular service, set you up with a domain name and a website. In fact, they have recently helped me transfer the domain name owner from them (because they do all the initial set-up) to me.

If you go the true self-publishing route, you can either do it all yourself using a service such as CreateSpace, or find and pay the people and/or services you need to get your book published. I will give you more information about self-publishing and self-publishing options in Issue 2 of this newsletter.


In the next issue of Tips from a Self-Published Author Finding Her Way in the Dark:

  • More pros and cons of assisted self-publishing
  • Why I am glad I used a (true) assisted self-publishing company for my first novel
  • Why I would NOT go this route for the second edition of my first book, or for planned future books
  • More information about self-publishing options


Please note that these are my own experiences and opinions. I am not saying my choices would be best for everyone. It is always a good idea to do your research. My goal is to inform you of the kinds of things you need to know, and maybe even give you some insights and direction.

I look forward to posting more blogs about self-publishing, for your information and enjoyment, in the future.

Thanks for reading!


P.S. If you have not yet signed up for my author newsletter in exchange for a free copy of my Seers Series short story collection, The Guardians of Sterrenvar, please click here.