So, you’ve drafted your novel, edited it a few times, and now you’re thinking about self publishing it.
Every book you publish builds your reputation. If you decide not to get it professionally edited, you risk loosing future readers. Successful authors always talk about the importance of their back list (previous titles). What you want is to create a fan base that will keep coming back for more.
You NEED to get it professionally edited.
Step 2 – Professional Edit
Here is a handy infographic you can add to Pinterest of the steps covered in this post.
There are many professional editors who specialise in different areas. I’ve tried to simplify the process in this graphic, but each editor is unique. Check what they offer as part of their editing service. I will provide links to more info where I can.
You can learn so much about your novel and writing from this edit. The editor will highlight what’s working and what’s not, and make some suggestions on how to improve it.
When you get your manuscript back you will have a lot of work to do but it’s well worth it. I paid a local printer to print my MS, so I could work through the edits physically and digitally.
Sometimes to save money people choose between a line or copy edit as they have similarities. If you can afford both, do it. The more editing the better. For Ocean Heart, I did skip this but my editor did some line editing within her copy edit.
Read through all the changes made (or recommended) by your editor. These will improve your manuscript. You don’t have to make the changes but I doubt you paid for an editor to ignore them.
I got a copy edit for Ocean Heart as my final edit. My editor still pointed out areas that needed improving – even by this point, it still wasn’t perfect.
You must love it: You need to love the cover they create. It is essentially the first tool in your marketing arsenal. It needs to be something you’ll be proud to flaunt. Look at their portfolio and decide if you like their other designs.
Genre suitable: Each designer will have their own style, and it will likely be more suitable for a certain genre. I write Fantasy and Original Book Cover Designs definitely has a flair for it. Readers of your genre will expect a certain style so you don’t want them to pass your book assuming it’s not for them based on the cover.
Budget: We all have to operate within our means. People will judge a book by its cover but there are affordable options. Many designers do pre-made covers and if you can find one that suits your book, you can save on the cost of a bespoke design.
Extras: If you want to do eBook & Print, does the designer do a discount. Will they do other formats like hardback or audio. Do they offer some social media images or 3D Renders. Do they offer other services as a bundle discount (like formatting or blurb writing, etc).
Recommendations: If you can find authors the designer has worked with it can be very insightful. You could reach out to ask about their experience. You can also see if they have continued to use the designer and if they recommend then to others.
Benefits of a cover designer
Professional: I love creating my own covers. I often make them in Canva and use them on Wattpad. But, when it came to publishing my book, I wanted the cover to be perfect. I wanted my readers to find it hard to tell it is self published. It had to look professional.
Dimensions: I went a little cross eyed when I tried to figure out the spine for paperback. The width changes depending on paper type and page count. Ingram does have a tool to help you work it out and you can use the template in InDesign.
Technical Skills: I don’t know how to use Adobe or any other fancy design software I’d love to learn it but I just don’t have time. Outsourcing the cover design to a professional was a massive time saver.
Marketing: As mentioned earlier, your cover is the first thing anyone sees of your book. It needs to be eye catching, genre appropriate, and you need to be proud of showing it off. If it looks nice, other people might show it off too!
Working with your cover designer
Quote: Firstly, you’ll need to reach out to your chosen designer for a quote. I liked that Original Book Cover Design’s has some packages on their website so I knew they were within my budget and had already started putting money aside for it.
Timeframe: A good cover designer will likely have other projects on the go. You need to tell them when you’d like the job done by so they can confirm if they can do meet your deadline.
The deadline will need to be before your anticipated release date. This is because you should market your book before you release it. This period is often referred to as your book launch. Mine was about 2-3 months.
You also need the files before release to upload to the site you are using to create your book. I used Ingram Sparks. You’ll want to order a proof to check it is printing right, so allow time for quality control.
Also, if you are doing a print version, your cover designer will need to know what size to do the spine. Your manuscript will need to be edited and formatted.
Ideas: You’ll need to tell the designer about your book and your ideas for the cover. My cover designer had me complete an in depth questionnaire. She then worked with me to create a cover I love for my book Ocean Heart.
Final design: The first draft looked incredible. I gave myself a little cooling down period – it was crazy exciting seeing my book – to look at it critically. I then requested some minor changes which my designer made. I was in love. It was a dream come true.
I hope this has helped you decide on whether you want to use a cover designer for your book, where to look for a designer, and how to pick one.
For some reason I wasn’t aware book 2 was out and the crazy thing is, it was out first!
Am I right in thinking this book was originally published as a standalone, and was your first indie book?
Yes! The Ugly Truth started as a stand alone and was my first indie book. The problem was, I was never happy with the ending. It felt trite and over-simplified and I couldn’t seem to figure out how to fix it. It wasn’t until two years later that I decided to finish the series and I started on Swimming Sideways. When that book was finished, I realized I’d written them out of order and they were connected. It allowed me to go back to The Ugly Truth and write the ending which finally worked.
I notice there is a theme of truth and lies in your series, was this intentional?
I don’t know that I made a conscious decision to explore truth and lies initially, but one of the big character flaws of Seth was that he was hiding his truth in lies. Abby faces the same thing. Gabe isn’t lying so much as just hiding. So perhaps the broader theme is how we hide our true selves and the means we do that because we’re afraid or insecure or whatever reason creates that need to hide.
Which character do you relate to most?
Each of them, I think, in some ways. Abby’s “good girl” position; Seth’s need to project he’s got it all together when he doesn’t; Gabe’s sensitivity. I think the one I aspire to be like is the secondary character Dale in Gabe’s, The Bones of Who We Are. I think our stories reflect lots of pieces of us.
Tell me about the main character Seth?
Seth is a “it” guy at his high school, but he knows he doesn’t deserve it. He’s done some awful things to people including his once best friend, Gabe, by instigating “the Freak Challenge” even if he didn’t know it would blow up like it did. Worse yet, he doesn’t come forward to fix it because he’s too afraid. And that’s always been his problem: he’s afraid. At home, where no one knows, his family faces the rage of an alcoholic father, and Seth often bears the brunt of that anger. This story, however, is told through Seth’s memories, because he’s woken up as a spirit outside of his body which is lying in a coma in a hospital bed, and he doesn’t remember how he got there.
Where did the idea for this novel come from.
When I first started writing this story 15 plus years ago, it was a paranormal story. Abby and Seth were Earth guardians and Gabe was a Fallen Angel. It was initially inspired by Twilight because I was so upset with how Meyers had treated the characters. About the time I finished the first installment and began the query process, the book Fallen by Lauren Kate came out and then Hush Hush and suddenly the market was saturated. At the end of that first book, I’d ended it with Seth being dragged into a hell-like place by a demon named Amaros but I’d put the series away because I couldn’t find an agent, but Seth kept talking to me. “You’ve left me down here,” he’d say. “You’ve left me in hell.” So in 2015 I decided to approach his book as a stand alone and changed it to a YA Contemporary with speculative fiction elements. But as I mentioned earlier, I couldn’t get that ending to work!
How did you come up with your publishing name – Mixed Plate Press?
In Hawaiʻi, where I live and write, a mixed plate (also called a plate lunch) is a little bit of everything —meat, rice, salad—and all of it represents the “local flavor” of the islands. When I came up with the name for my independent imprint business, I wanted to go for that idea of a Mixed Plate Press title being representative of “many flavors” and something for everyone. That more than just the mainstream voices could be represented as a part of the publishing platform even if they’re niche.
Can you share a snippet of the book?
Here’s the first chapter of The Ugly Truth:
The Truth of Being Alive… Well, Kind of…
When I become conscious of myself, the way I am now, it isn’t like the idea of waking. I’m stretched thin, not exactly in the physical world or in the spiritual one, but somehow in between. My physical body is locked, but my spirit, what I guess I am now, moves beyond the confines of my bone, muscle and skin. I hover like a breeze in the flutter of a curtain. I dart back and forth between people and follow them while my physical body remains where it is, a shell that once housed me. I don’t know how I got here.
Time doesn’t function like it once did. This in-between layer seems to have collapsed into the slow motion of time lapse. I don’t know how long I’ve been here, but the longer I am, bits and pieces flash like images spliced together and sound bites in vignettes.
The wail of the siren.
Words: “Stay with us, Seth.”
The wail of a woman (I think she is my mother).
Beeps and blips of equipment speaking.
I don’t think it has been very long. If I use the emotion of the woman I think is my mother’s gusts of grief as a measure, this seems recent.
A man appears in the doorway of the room. A haze of familiarity lingers in my consciousness. I think he is my father. Clues: he isn’t dressed like a doctor or a nurse and instead is in worn jeans and a button-up flannel over a white t-shirt. Add to that his hesitation at the door when he sees my body. His face is drawn, pale and heavy with the burden of emotion. I watch him take in the scene from the doorway and imagine how he might see the space from my corner of the room.
It’s a plain room, clean and sterile, a blanket the color of the sky over my physical body. My dark hair looks strange against the pillow, a stark contrast to the whiteness of the bed. The paleness of my face that seems to blend into everything else aside from the beautiful blue and purple bruises, blooming flowers, on my face and the dark cuts that crisscross my forehead. A tube protrudes from my mouth, tubes from my arms, and the loud click and whir of the machine causes my chest to rise and fall with a regular rhythm like a ticking clock.
The woman, her back to the man, holds my hand. “Seth. Honey. Momma’s here,” she says through tears.
That’s a first.
This is a thought which shocks me, a reflexive one that is as natural as breathing but like a punch to the gut. Bitterness tastes like something old and stale, and I want to rinse my mouth, wash the bitterness that dispels fermented hostility like the color of putrid yellow-green staining the atmosphere.
The man walks into the room from the doorway, the sound of his footsteps announcing his arrival. As he crosses the room, I shrink away from him. My mother’s back straightens, rigid while the essence of me tightens up and folds in on itself until it’s so small it can’t be folded anymore. It’s a reaction I don’t understand. I retreat into the upper corner of the room as far I can without passing through the wall. Again, I’m struck with this visceral response that isn’t connecting. I don’t remember. This inexplicable feeling is confounding. Add it to the confusion of being disconnected from my body and fear has planted several seeds.
The man puts his hand on my mom’s shoulder. She shrugs away from his touch as though burned. “Kate?” He asks, and this exchange solidifies he is my father. His voice sounds different than what my unreliable memory insists is characteristic of him: it’s too shallow and lacks thunder.
The man puts his hand on my mom’s shoulder. She shrugs away from his touch as though burned. “Kate?” He asks, and this exchange solidifies he is my father. His voice sounds different than what my unreliable memory insists is characteristic of him: it’s too shallow and lacks thunder.
Something in my psyche reacts to this interaction though I can’t quite name what it is I feel. I know it doesn’t feel quite right. It’s like putting on a new shoe that isn’t formed to the foot yet. Her minuscule rebellion and his muted tone are unfamiliar. I search for what seems more familiar and imagine her acquiescence in his unrelenting storm.
“I won’t speak in anger in front of Seth,” she says. It’s more of a whisper really. “He can hear. The doctor thinks so.”
“I understand you’re angry. I’m angry too.”
She swivels in her chair with acute force and levels a stare that makes him step backward. “You’re angry?” she asks through clenched teeth, the sound more like a hiss.
I stretch in my corner of the hospital room, toward them, revelation like an electric shock moves through me. My father has seen something in my mother’s look that stays him. His face says it all, the stupefaction, the denial, and then the pain. He turns away, unable to hold himself up under her gaze and leaves the room.
I follow him, curious. There is something different about this man – it’s foreign, frightening and strangely freeing. He’s shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans and shuffles down the hallway. This father isn’t recognizable but is broken like a car that needs a new spark plug.
He enters a waiting room filled with people. Emotion rushes at me in a variety of colors: blue, red, orange, green, yellow, purple, brown, black and shades in between. Each person in the room exudes color, some with multiple hues. I don’t know what the shades mean, but I sift through the spectrum to find where the feelings emanate. As I scan the room, I freeze on one face. I know this one: Abby. She is surrounded by an aura of light-blue tinged with darker flecks of blue and gold.
My form is filled with warmth and then chased by regret. I remember her smile and her laugh. I remember the way she made me feel: safe. I reach for a memory that causes the cooling grief, but there is only blackness. “Abby. I have to tell you something,” I say but my memory stalls not able to grasp what I thought I needed to tell her. She doesn’t indicate she’s heard me. “Abby,” I try again anyway.
“She can’t hear you,” a voice from an invisible entity says.
I whirl around the room. The origin remains hidden and the voice silent, so I return to Abby.
I’m in front of her, hovering as though standing on my own two feet. I study her, free to do so. Her brown eyes are rimmed red. She’s been crying and her brown face is pale, her inner-light diminished. She’s crossed her arms over herself as though holding something in. “Abby?” I try again, but she doesn’t hear me.
An awareness I don’t want to recognize dances on the peripheral of my being. I want to turn away from it, but I can’t. It’s like an angry jester dancing within me flashing a terrible smile. Looking at Abby, anguish wraps its arms around me and panic infiltrates my life force. I know I don’t want to be like this – in between. “Abby! Help me!” I yell.
She shivers as if she is affected by my cries but looks right through me.
Someone next to her – a young man – puts his arms around her. When I’m able to focus on him through the soft light reaching toward me, I recognize him: Gabe. A flare of anger rushes through me, fire and hot, that angry jester taunting me with his awful dance again – instinctual. When I focus on my former friend, I see he’s been crying, his eyes defined by sadness. I notice the bruising on his face and my spirit cracks open. A cool-blue washes me and the red steams away. My own perception of things isn’t ringing true, a little flat, like the note needs adjustment. I’m missing something.
“You!” The word is like a shot startling me. It sounds like a curse.
Abby looks up.
I swivel around.
My father exudes black and red. I remember this man. One of his dragons appears ready to burn his intended victim with its internal fire. He’s pointing at me, but I realize he can’t see me. He sees Abby. “This is all your fault,” he yells and takes three menacing steps toward me – her. “You changed him!” He stalks through me approaching Abby with purpose.
A man I don’t remember but seems familiar moves in front of Abby. “Hey now,” he says. At the same time another man dressed in a black suit and a cleric collar appears at my father’s elbow.
“Jack,” one of them says. I don’t know which. “You’re hurting.”
The words break a dam. My father folds in on himself, shrinks as though the impending storm is cut up by a downdraft. The other two men help him to a seat near the window.
Shaken by what I’ve witnessed, I return to my body.
My mother is still there, holding my hand and humming a quiet lullaby through her tears:
When the traveler in the dark…
Thanks you for your tiny spark…
The world around me begins to spin, as though someone has swiped at a table-top globe. The room rotates on an axis and the colors rush together in a blur. I’m compressed and suffocating and though I work to focus on my mother’s song, I can’t find a focal point. This place where I’m in between isn’t freedom. It’s a trap, a prison, and I’m stuck.
Wake up! Wake up! I think. I squeeze myself shut attempting to disappear in order to reappear in the awake world. But nothing happens. The spinning slows. The space around me coming back into focus. I still hover in the room listening to the quiet hum of my mother’s voice who’s accompanied by the percussion of the life support.
With Valentines Day coming up, I thought it’d be fun to share some of the romance tropes that can be found in Ocean Heart, and possibly in Sky Heart. Warning: Lots of snogging Gifs!
Redfae Bookshop is my Affiliate Bookshop.org Shop Link. NB: This post contains these affiliate links…
Friends to Lovers
This is a favourite romance trope of mine because my husband and I started out as friends. For us it had a HEA, we have a beautiful home and two fabulous kids, and later this year we’ll be celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary. But getting together wasn’t easy, and it risked our friendship if it didn’t work out.
In Ocean Heart, Mariah is crushing on her BFF. It starts off as an unrequited love, but during the novel they deal with first kisses, jealousy, and a break up. Can they rekindle their romance, save their friendship, or do they need to move on?
Enemies to Lovers
Sometimes I don’t like the trope because I don’t want them to get together. It depends on why they are enemies but, I made it work in Ocean Heart. Check out the reviews of Ocean Heart.
When Mariah beats swim star Murray in a race, he doesn’t handle losing well. After behaving like an idiot, he starts to take an interest in her but she’s not interested. She’s heard about his reputation.
This is the one where the bad boy falls in love and changes his ways. I’m a sucker for this one as a fantasy, but in real life not so much. Bad boys are bad news and rarely deliver a HEA.
Murray has an Instagram feed of all his conquests and he’s not ashamed to brag about it. It’s why he’s so protective over his sister Kiely. He knows guys only want one thing, until...
Some people really hate this trope. Eek! But, not me. Throw in more hot guys, more romances, more complications, and I’m hooked turning the page.
There are technically two in Ocean Heart. First up, when Mariah realises she’s crushing on her BFF Jace, he already has a girlfriend, Kiely. Later, when Murray takes an interest in Mariah, he attempts to draw her attention away from Mariah.
This is where two people are meant to be together. It’s common in paranormal romances, where a wolf imprints on their mate.
Mariah is a mermaid. She doesn’t know it, but when she accidentally marks one of the guys as her mate for life, then they are bound.
People fake relationships in books often to raise their status, or to get a reaction from someone else. In Out Of My League the MC accepts the deal to save face at a party where she catches her boy friend cheating, and in The Practice Boyfriend the MC strikes a deal to gain access to the elite parties.
In Ocean Heart, Mariah agrees to a fake relationship. Both parties have different reasons but united on one goal; to end a romance.
As a teen I loved a book called Ginger’s First Kiss by Janet Quin-Harkin. It’s the first book in the Boyfriend Club series where a group of friends pact to help each other get their first kisses and Ginger realises she’s into her BFF’s brother. I got it free with a teen magazine at the time called BIG. Over the years I have lost the book and it is no longer in distribution.
Both Keily’s BFFs have brothers, and both are off limits. It’s a rule the girls made. A rule Kiely is tempted to break when one of them offers to help her get over her ex in a way nobody else can.
This trope is so exciting. There’s all the danger of getting caught, and whatever the stakes are.
It’s not just her friends that Keily needs to hide who she is seeing, it’s also her over protective big brother, Murray. And later, she must keep it hidden from someone more dangerous than she ever imagined.
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First up, I love that the prices are on her website. It enabled me to plan my budget upfront before I committed to self publishing.
When I was ready, Julia was easy to contact and ask questions. I reached out to her via Instagram, @evanstarbooks.juliascott.
Working with my formatter
I had to wait until my manuscript had its final edit. Julia does include a round of corrections in her price but you want to save that as a “just incase theres a problem” safety net.
I emailed my manuscript to Julia and my ideas. She then mocked up a few designs. I shared these in my Soul Heart Readers FB Group, to get their opinions on which design to go with.
Early drafts of Ocean Heart, I had included mermaid silhouettes as my chapter breaks. It was incredible to see Julia’s talent bring my idea to life and to a level I could not have achieved.
Choosing the font
Before cover design and formatting, I had never given fonts much thought. Julia gave me some options and explained why serif fonts are used for the body of text.
I then spent a lot of time (with the help of my 7 year old son), analysing the fonts in my favourite books. One of the reasons I wanted a formatter was so my book could stand next to traditionally published books and fit in. I wanted a font that was similar to what readers expected.
Julia was so patient with me going through the options. She understood that getting this right for the first book in my series was incredibly important. She created different mocks with different fonts so I could see how it all looked together.
I finally went with:
Heading Font: Alice
Body Font: Palatino Linotype
The formatted files
Julia then created my formatted manuscript ready for upload with Ingram Sparks and other popular formats I might need. I uploaded the print & eBook for distribution.
I then had to tell my Cover Designer the final page count so she could finish the spine for the print copy of the book.
Editing the files
One of my ARC readers, Cassidy Reyne, brought to my attention some mistakes I had made in my version. I made Julia aware of the mistakes and she corrected these for me, and provided the updated files free of charge.
Unfortunately, Ingram Sparks charged me for updating files. This was an expensive lesson I learned, but I won’t make this mistake again.
The printed book
Here is how the interior looks in the final version I chose:
I absolutely love it. Look at all that detail on the chapter page. The mermaid is simple and reminiscent of the one I used to use, so it’s very personal. The coral reef at the bottom is a nod to the cover designed by Original Book Cover Designs. The chapter breaks is a heart and a wave – what could say Ocean Heart more?
Is professional formatting worth it?
Yes! Being able to discuss my ideas with someone that had experience was very helpful. Julia also made sure I had the correct file types.
There’s a lot involved in publishing a book. Being able to delegate this task out freed me up to focus on other activities required for a successful book launch.
I wanted my book to fit in with traditional books, but Julia went one better. She helped make my book standout for all the right reasons.
I’m so happy with the result and can’t wait to work with her again for the rest of the series.
When I decided to self publish I knew I would need an editor. As much as I love writing and creating stories, English language was never my best subject at school.
I wasn’t the worst but I wasn’t top of the class either. Even if I’d been good at English I’d still need an editor, because people miss their own mistakes.
Once ready for an editor, I was over whelmed by how many different types of editors there are. For Ocean Heart, I used many rounds of Beta Readers, and two rounds of professional edits, and used a professional formatter.
The two terms are often used interchangeably as they are similar and it’s important to check what your editor means so you can ensure what you are paying for is what you expect.
CopyEdit: Unsually involves checking SPAG, readability, and clarity. They may highlight where it’s not flowing right.
Line Edit: Usually focuses on the content and use of language. They highlight inconsistent style, where pacing is too fast/slow, if you’ve overused a word (or repeating yourself).
If you can afford both, do it. Traditionally published books will have a copy edit, then a line edit. If you can’t afford both, don’t skip the copy edit. Your spellchecker is not enough.
How I chose my Copy Editor
Avery was at the top of my list as I’d already had such a good experience with her, but I did consider letting another pair of eyes run over my manuscript.
Budget: This was a big deciding factor. I had a limited budget and had to operate within my means.
Recommendation: Connecting with other indie authors gave me a good source of recommendations, many are listed in the World Indie Warriors brochure.
Expertise: All of them had experience as an editor. One was new, but had already built a portfolio and I’d attended a workshop she did which helped build trust. But, Avery was the only one that specialised in YA.
I went with Avery as she ticked all my boxes and was already familiar with my book. As she does writing workshops with teens, she also has a close relationship with my target audience.
I paid Avery for a copy edit. But, it definitely over lapped into a line edit. For example, she highlighted a scene where the emotional impact needed work, and another scene where my character came off rude towards her friend.
Through Avery’s comments I learnt a lot about my writing. Once I’d actioned her feedback, my novel was definitely better.
I wish I could have afforded a line edit but my budget was maxed out. Avery didn’t get to see it again, as I went ahead with my next step – formatting. Once formatted, I sent it off to my ARC readers.
One of my ARC readers was author Cassidy Reyne. She did an unofficial proofread for me. I didn’t ask her to do it, she’s just sweet like that.
As I’d already paid Ingram to publish Ocean Heart (it was on preorder) there was a fee to amend the files. I paid it because I wanted my book to be as perfect as possible. I’m so thankful to Cassidy for letting me know.
For my next book, I will seek out Cassidy’s eagle eyes – if she has time. If not, I will consider getting a professional proofreader.
I preordered this book. There was a deal on Twitter that if you preordered it you’d to get an exclusive pin. The book sounded interested and I was tempted by the deal so I treated myself. After release I received my cute Cinderella is Dead pin, and put it somewhere so safe… I can’t find it.
Imagine Cinderella was real, and following her rein some strict laws were made depicting a woman’s place in society based on her ability to be picked at the annual ball of suitors. Failure to be chosen results in never seeing your loved ones again. Everyone must learn the story of Cinderella.
Sophia is a very strong character. Her friends have come of age and must attend the ball. They are eager to be chosen, partly driven by fear and the lies they’ve been sold. Sophia wants to run away.
Sophia has romantic feelings for one of her friends, Erin, but it felt a little one sided, but that could have been the fear of not conforming. At the ball Erin gets picked by a horrid man. Her other friend’s parents couldn’t afford a fancy gown and she’s shamed in front of everyone and banished. Sophia reveals her defiance in front of the king. She has no choice but to run, and so the adventure begins.
On the run Sophia meets an outcast who helps her. Together they plan to tack down the King, and enlist the help of the elusive fairy Godmother.
This is like fairy tale dystopian. It was an incredible read. You could see how people bought the lies, hoping if they did as they were told they’d be safe. There was a romantic sub plot that brewed nicely. And, I loved the twists and turns of this book. It turned a classic fairy tale on its head with corruption.
I hope Kalynn writes more twisted fairy tales. It was a brand new refreshing take. I loved it.