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Step Three to Writing a Book: Publishing

 If you decide to self-publish, there are good prospects and bad ones. It's a complicated process, though it's much simpler now than it was a few years ago. It's hard to break it down, and the learning curve is brutal at times. While I've tried to develop a schedule that covers all the necessary steps, I find myself doing what I feel like doing on a given day and neglecting things I should be doing. That's bad, but since I don't consider writing a "job," I give myself a break and do what sounds doable at the time. Here's what I work on in the months and weeks before publication. Cover Manuscript setup Publicity Corrections Ordering Let's start with the cover. The easiest thing to do is hire a cover artist, and ninety percent of experts will tell you to do that. I admit that I don't have the tools, smarts, or experience that a cover artist does, but here's the thing: they don't know the material like I do. I had a really good cover a

Step Two of Writing a Book

  In the last post, I gave hints on writing your book. Now it's time to make sure your work appears in its best form, whether you plan to self-publish or submit to an agent. However you recorded your story, at this point it has to become a computer file. There are two reasons for that: first, modern publishing requires it, and second, it makes editing a whole lot easier. You'll need to get to know your computer's editing aids, which can be frustrating but will pay off in the end. Things like FIND/REPLACE can save you hours of searching when you realize you changed the spelling of main character's name halfway through the story. When you get stuck, ask the internet. There's always a tutorial or a site where someone asked the same question you need answered. There are different ways of going about the editing process , and individuals arrange them to their liking. I do several self-edits before anyone else sees the book. Sometimes I combine a few of the edits listed

When You Want to Write a Book

 If I had a nickel for every time someone said to me, "I'd like to write"...I'd have a lot of nickels. To help those people out a little, I thought I'd do a series of posts on the topic, similar to a presentation I used to do in live settings called WRITE, EDIT, PUBLISH.  WRITING If you want to write a book, you have to find the time, energy, and perseverance to keep at it until the story is done. When you type "The End" (We actually don't do that, but the image is nice), it won't be perfect, but--at least in the world of fiction--a story needs to be finished before you can consider the next steps. Mostly, this means the BITCH principle is in effect: Butt In The Chair, Honey . Your method doesn't matter. I know authors who hand-write their first drafts, some who keyboard, some who dictate, and even one who uses some antique half-computer half-typewriting device she claims works best for her thought process. Whatever, just get your story on pa

A Messy Writing Career

 I'm usually pretty neat. I like my house in order. I keep a regular schedule. I pick up items dropped on the floor at Kohl's and rehang them so they won't get stepped on. Neat is good. But if you look at my writing career, you might think, "This woman has no sense of order at all!" I started writing historical novels, using my own name.(I used Peg instead of Peggy because there's another author with that name.) I got an agent, she found a publisher, and I was on my way...sort of. I had an idea for a paranormal mystery, and I met a publisher at a conference who liked it, so suddenly Peg Herring writes about Elizabeth I but ALSO about a detective who solves crimes from the afterlife. In the meantime, I wrote a mystery about a homeless woman. My second publishers loved that one, so now I had THREE series going. I also wrote a stand-alone mystery that I called "vintage," meaning it took place in the past but not that far back (the Vietnam era, which is

What a Month!

I was thrilled with the response to my giveaway in August, so thanks to all who requested a print book. I'm sorry if you didn't get one, but they went fast! I've been receiving emails from readers, some letting me know the book had arrived in the mail, and others letting me know the reader had finished and would be posting a review. One clever girl even put a pic of the book on Facebook, so I got some free advertising. To one and all, thank you! The process was hectic for a while, since I wanted to get the books in the mail ASAP. The people at my little post office were patient and helpful. I combed local dollar stores to get enough bubble mailers of the correct size. There was time spent, and money. Why would I do that? Writers often spend hundreds of dollars on advertising that goes out into a world of people who don't care much about their books. I chose to spend that money to send books to people who'd already noticed me, either here on the blog or by signing

You Gotta Love Suggestions...or Not

 People love to tell you what you should do. I guess it's part of being human. Many suggestions are horribly wrong, and they can feel almost willfully so. I saw a post on social media recently asking for book recommendations. The poster wanted to read about an era of history, but she specified she wanted a standalone book. She got no less than three recommendations for series that are "really good." As my writing career lurches along, I get lots of advice on what I should be doing. My first books were historical, but then other ideas came along. I wrote contemporary mysteries and what I call 'vintage' mysteries set in the 1960s. As a result, Peg Herring's books are scattered through various mystery sub-genres, and of course there are fans who would like more of this type or that. "You should write more ---" Maybe some authors can churn out endless books of one type. I can't. When I decided to try writing a cozy mystery, I invented a pseudonym, no

How Writing Changes Reading

 Note to audio fans: Deceiving Elvera is in the works for an audio book. The whole industry seems to be slowed by COVID 19, but I'll let you know as soon as I know.                                                                 How Writing Changes Reading  I have a friend who's a book reviewer, and she and I often talk about how reading changes a person's reading (if that makes sense, you're a reader). When you start as a kid and read for, say, five decades, you bring a lot of background to each new book you pick up. It's hard for an author to surprise you or entrance you, because you've seen it all before. I recall my daughter telling me how wonderful the Harry Potter books were, so I read the first one. My thought was, "Cute, but hasn't anyone read The Once and Future King ? Being an author is likely to make a person even more of a picky reader than a past filled with books. Writers see plot lines developing, because we've done that ourselves.

I Too Lie for a Living

    Novelists are liars. As one of my contemporaries likes to say, "We make shit up." The bad part of lying is why you do it. For writers, it's about entertaining readers. Fiction in a story is harmless in most cases, though I get frustrated with historical novelists who twist facts to suit their story. They don't care if readers (who aren't generally historical experts) conclude that so-and-so wasn't really the villain the history books portray but was actually kind of a pussycat.  Outside of books, lies take on a more treacherous role. We grew up bombarded daily with commercial advertising, and while some of us learned to think through the hype, others buy products they have no need for because they succumb to the tricks liars play. When I taught high school, I asked students to dissect ads looking for two things: what the specific goal is and how the ad makes its appeal. Often advertisers trigger a person's insecurities so they'll buy a product. (Be

Which Book Was That?

 It happens to me sometimes. A reader mentions a character or a scene in one of my books, and it takes me a second to find it in my memory. Oh, right, Caroline, the protagonist in Somebody Doesn't Like Sarah Leigh. I remember her--kind of. https://books2read.com/u/4AgVOq The thing is, authors move on. We have new ideas. We dream up new people. But there's no way to tell when a reader will find a book, read it, and get excited for more. My first book was published in 2006. I just saw online where someone ordered it. Yay...but how much of Macbeth's Niece do I even remember? https://books2read.com/u/m0xYdY My newest book, Deceiving Elvera, released on Friday. There are ads for it everywhere, and the introductory price is a bargain, so readers are talking about it. One beta reader suggested I could make it a series. Um, no. Some books are meant to be stand-alones, and this one is...big-time. https://books2read.com/u/38RZoB The other day a fan wrote to say she wished Maggie P

The Terrors of Publication

Today I sent a newsletter to over two thousand readers, telling them about the book that will release on December 4, DECEIVING ELVERA. I also bought an ad on Facebook, letting readers there know how to pre-order the book. Terror. I'm gripped with terror, I tell you! Why? Because it's a little like navigating a minefield, this publishing thing.  *The print cover looks great on Amazon, but it's wonky on Draft 2 Digital (see spine above), and I haven't yet figured out why. *I have a FINAL final review copy on the way, so I might find a few leftover errors that will now have to be fixed on several sites before December 4th arrives (actually it's earlier than that, because they need time to get the files changed. More like November 30, then.) *Over the past week, I've slated ads with a half-dozen sites like Great Books, Great Deals and Kindle Daily Nation, so their readers will see the cover and read a bit about the book. Each one is different, and I dread that I mig

Looking at Covers-Please Weigh In

The Kidnap Capers is a three-book series starring Robin and her "hoods," who take down crooks by unorthodox, often humorous methods.  Book 3 will be out on September 1st, so we're trying to settle on a cover. I'd like input from readers on what's eye-catching and gives the sense of a humorous but suspenseful story. Here are their covers (these are for the audio books because that's what I can find right now): Keeping the red/black theme, we got these two possibilities. They'll be fine-tuned once we choose a basic idea. If we skip the idea of coordinating colors, I like this one too: Please tell me which cover you prefer, or choose elements that work for you that might be incorporated into a new cover (e.g., "I like the lettering in X but the picture in Y.")

Series: What I Wish I'd Known Then

I suspect every writer looks back and wishes things done and undone, and I'm no exception. I write what pleases me, not what I think will make tons of money.  Often I don't know as I'm working on a book if it's a stand-alone or if I'll want to revisit the characters at some point in the future and write them a new adventure. The technology for book publishing has a steep learning curve and requires constant updating. I started my career with a traditional publisher, which meant I didn't have to worry about that end of things. Now that I'm independent, I decide at what point a book releases, how it's presented to the world, and how to make the internet assist. A while back I learned how to make a boxed set of some of my series, so binge readers can get all the books for one price. I think that's a nice bargain for them. Recently I learned that Amazon will let readers know about all  the books in a series IF the information is presented to them co

Writing, My Precious

We sometimes hear writing described as precious , which, according to one definition I found, is some combination of 1. self-absorbed – the author inserting his own personality too much in the narration. 2. autobiographical – the story is about something that changed the author’s life, turned into fiction. 3. trying too hard to make the text sound nice/pretty 4. trying too hard to effect a style Last night I dumped a book after about 20 pages for reasons I can't pinpoint except to call the writing precious . I felt like the author was standing at my shoulder, asking, "Didn't I describe that character completely? Isn't she stunningly beautiful?" Every character was described in great detail before he/she ever said a word. In addition, they might just as well have worn signs that said, "LIKE ME" or "DON'T LIKE ME." The "good" characters were perfectly beautiful or incredibly handsome, and the "bad" characters had bea

There's Too Many Kids in this Tub!

That's a poem by Shel Silverstein, but sometimes I feel that way about my books. I was packing for a book signing on Saturday, and I simply can't haul all of my books (and Maggie's) along anymore. I ended up taking a suitcase full, leaving it in the car, and checking with Horizon Books to see which books they already had. That way I only had to bring a few books from the car to the store, since Traverse City is a bit of an obstacle course all summer long. Gawking tourists (and I'm not complaining, since I've been that person many, many times), dogs, kids, cars, and protestors make the streets an adventure. Luckily, Horizon Books carries my work in good quantities, so I was able to navigate the streets with only a small tote bag containing the newest release. But back to the too many kids thing. I once heard a very famous author comment that it was frustrating for him when people asked questions about his older books. "I forget them as soon as I write them,&qu

In Praise of Quiet Authors

I'm going to share something authors talk about among themselves but are wary of speaking openly about. While most authors are great at public events, there are some who shout the rest of us down, claiming what they offer is "the best book you'll ever read!" Examples: A guy who stationed his wife at the door so she could lead people to his table (past four other authors). The one who hollered at each new customer, "Come on over here and let me tell you about my book!" as they came into the room. The woman who practically moved into my space so she could tell my customers about her books. These people ignore differences in readers' expectations and the variety of tastes concerning plot, character, writing styles, etc. Their book fits all, and the other authors present are chopped liver. The saddest part is that it sometimes works. Every other author in the room is offended, but readers are nice people, and once these loudmouths have them cornered, the

Picky, Picky, Picky!

As a kid I was known as a picky eater. Basically, if my mother didn't make it, I was suspicious, and my aunts learned to keep a jar of peanut butter around. That I'd always eat. Today, I'm less picky about food, but as a consumer of entertainment, I'm still picky. I know that sometimes that comes off as sour grapes or the I-could-do-it-better attitude. That might be true. I need some sort of logic in my comedy. Anything billed as "zany" or "madcap" is liable to go unread/watched. There are ways to do zany well--Mel Brooks comes to mind--but most of the time I get tired of silliness portrayed as comedic genius. I don't like those people. They need to grow up. I need plot authenticity in my dramas too. A few nights ago we watched a movie (It was too hot to do anything else!) and though I kept my comments to myself, here are a few logical flaws I noticed. *The millionaire bad guy had dozens of minions willing to obey his every command. So...he

The Point Where a Book Takes Off

As a reader, you feel a point where you're inside the story, at least if you and the story are sympatico . When you get a good book that happens almost immediately. I recently read MERCY DOGS by Tyler Dilts, which was recommended by a friend, and I fell into the story right away. I liked the protagonist. I empathized with his situation and his father's. I was interested in the mysterious disappearance of his renter. I wanted to know how they were all going to end up. I love it when that happens. For me, writing a book has that same moment. Intellectually I know I'm going to write a story that comes floating into my head, but emotionally, it often doesn't click until I'm in the middle of actually writing it down. I'm at work on the sequel to KIDNAP.org, which got nice attention from people in the book industry as well as readers. I knew I wanted it to be a three-story arc, and with my editor's suggestion, I figured out what the 2nd and 3rd books would de

Authors in Strange Situations

Nobody tells you that promoting the books you write requires you to be adaptable and have a sense of humor. We picture authors jetting all over the country, sipping champagne and telling adoring fans about their latest novel, but that's not reality for the vast majority of us. I loved the story one author told about arriving at a bookstore where he had an audience of one. The fan told him he'd really liked the book, though he admitted he might not have chosen to read it except, "It was the only one they had in solitary confinement." I haven't met any ex-cons who are fans (that I know of), but I have ended up in strange situations. I want to state here for the record that I am EXTREMELY grateful to libraries and bookstores who allow me to come for a Sit & Sign or, even better, a talk. However, it doesn't always go the way one might imagine. *** There was the library where they'd booked two events at the same time in the same room. The othe