Category Archives: Write regardless!

Writer, you’re an author!

“This is a time to take great care of yourself.”

THERE is nothing quite like hitting the publish button on your own work. It’s an even sweeter experience when you’ve been patient and really done the work on your book, confident that you’ve made it the best it can be with the resources at your disposal. Congratulations, writer… you have transformed yourself into an author! Here are a few considerations your new title brings with it.

The book blues

Many authors draw comparisons between publishing a book and having a baby, no doubt due to the long gestation period and the potential for a difficult birth. There’s also a good chance you’ll encounter something of an anti-climax after publishing a book, particularly after your launch has come and gone, and the initial flurry of sales has died down. This is a time to take great care of yourself. You’ve achieved something major after sending one of your precious brainchildren out into the world. You’re bound to feel vulnerable as your work finds its feet.

Reviews (the good and the bad)

It won’t take too long before you start garnering feedback on your publications, on online book-selling sites across the world, or social media sites like Goodreads. Be prepared for people to love and hate your work in equal measure. Bad reviews hurt, leaving authors feeling misunderstood and disheartened. My best advice on this is to let reviews be. Always encourage readers to write them, but read them very rarely, and never engage in an argument with a reviewer who didn’t like what you wrote. This is an incredibly difficult standard to maintain, and one of the best ways to get through it is to get busy on positive actions around your publications.

Keeping your book (and yourself) buoyant

The great thing about print on demand (POD) publishing services is that you don’t have to sit with thousands of copies of your new book in your office. They can be printed in short runs, allowing independent publishers to plan marketing campaigns that are financially low-risk. Having said that, it’s easy to end up with a few spare new paperbacks on your shelf. Get them out there!

“Share the good news about how you contributed to making the world a better place for writers.”

Direct selling

Readers love meeting authors, especially when there’s a copy of their book for sale. Reserve a weekend, gather up all spare copies of your book, print signs with great review quotes, and hold a stall at your local markets. Ensure you have a special ‘market price’ for your book (such as a discount for buying more than one), and you’ll shift a few copies; but there’s an old marketing saying about never letting a customer go without being able to get in touch with them again!

Connect with readers

Direct selling gives authors an opportunity to begin an ongoing relationship with our readers. There are many ways to do this, such as handing out a business card, or becoming friends on social media. Starting an emailed newsletter allows you to regularly stay in touch with readers and let them know your news about upcoming titles and events you’re participating in. Because avid readers still tend to enjoy the communication offered via email, they’ll often readily agree to giving you their email address. Social media platforms like MailChimp can be used to create free or low-cost email newsletters for independent publishers, but always let respondents know you’re not planning to sell or share their details with any third party.

IMG_1670Shameless self-distribution

Just about any bookshop or bibliographic service in the world will be able to stock or supply your book if it has an ISBN, but independent bookshops and libraries are likely to ask you to arrange for the printing and delivery of your titles directly. Work with them in their way and you’re likely to shift a good number of copies. You’ll also maximise your profits by cutting out the middle man.

Checking out the competition

An increasing number of book trade festivals and competitions are opening the door to independent publishers, who’ve grown from an anachronism into a relevant player in the international publishing industry. Some still have their gates firmly closed to indies and operate on an invitation-only basis, just check their application details and be prepared to travel. Many conferences, conventions and exhibitions are seeking authors to present their work, so think laterally and stay open to invitations.

Marketing madness

Selling stuff takes energy and an iron will. In this era, selling words in any format is in one of the most challenging periods in the history of publishing, as the social media inevitably supplants the mainstream media as the dominant platform for all things newsworthy and literary. Stay agile, take the knock-backs with a light approach and ensure you celebrate your wins. In my first year of independent publishing, I made about one-third of the average income of a mainstream, traditionally published author, with absolutely no assistance from the media or the publishing industries. That left me feeling wiser but also, in my own way, successful. Remember that you define what it successful, not others. Keep to your goals and ignore all the white noise.

Adjust your course

Redesigning a cover, re-launching a title that has not been effective in the marketplace, and re-pricing or rebranding existing work are old publishing industry tricks. Independent publishers can benefit from employing all of them if we find our work doesn’t hit the mark first time around. We can always think again, laterally and creatively!

Conceive another brainchild

As I have written on many occasions in Write, Regardless! no publisher ever releases just one book. One of the best ways to stave off post-publishing blues is to be already well on the way to completing another manuscript by the time they hit. Now that you know the process of independent publishing, achieving your second-born will be all the easier for you.


WRITE REGARDLESSPublishing your first book, and ensuring it is a high-quality product that delivers for readers, is an incredible achievement. One of the best things you can do when you achieve it is to share the good news about how you contributed to making the world a better place for writers. Write, Regardless! is my way of inspiring wordsmiths to keep putting work out there despite the odds that traditional publishing poses. If I have inspired you, please find me and return the favour!

An extract from Write, Regardless!

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.

Writer, show your proof!

“Be hard on yourself and make your book the best it can be.”

BY now your book and your plan to market it should be well advanced. You’re nearly at the finish line with the formatted, beta-read manuscript that you’ve read multiple times from start to finish; your effective title and cover; all your publishing matter (such as an ISBN and barcode), and your established working relationships with the mainstream and social media into which to spread the good news about your book’s publication. It’s now time for one of the very hardest parts of the marathon: to proofread your book and ensure is passes the eagle eye of hungry readers.

Good housekeeping

What no independent publisher should try to do without is a cast-iron back up of their work somewhere external to their computer, such as a USB memory stick or a separate hard drive. Within that, ensure you always know which is the most up-to-date version of your work as you proofread it. If you’re proofreading eBook and paperback versions of the same content, you’ll need to ensure every change is made across each version. Work out what kind of system works for you, and stick to it religiously.

Copy editing

In independent publishing, beta-reading has come to replace what was once the first stage of copy-editing. After having your work read by one or more beta-readers, take the opportunity to use the feedback to rework it. Once you’ve formatted your work, and before you do your final proofreading, there is another chance to tweak your book’s plotting and content. Be hard on yourself and make your book the best it can be.

Watch the formatting

Ensure that any copy-editing does not throw out your book’s formatting. If you make cuts or a lot of additions, your paperback will end up thinner or thicker than it was and you may need to adjust the spine width of your cover design. Very often, a traditionally published book has a few blank pages at the very end. These are to allow for expansion and contraction of the content prior to publication without impacting the cover design, but check with your print on demand (POD) platform as it may have restrictions about leaving too many pages blank.

House style

Whether you complete your own copy editing or you engage someone, you’ll need to decide on a house style or style guide. There are differences in publishing style between major international publishing territories that reflect not only the spelling of those regions, but also publishing conventions. Choose one and stick to it.


There is no rule on earth that demands independent publishers follow an existing house style, but what readers will always notice is a lack of consistency in a book. Consistency suggests to readers that your choices are intentional, not mistakes. If your house style is all over the place, they’ll be unforgiving. Staying consistent between books is also important. Think about visual links between book covers and interior styles across all the books you publish in a one-year period. Let readers grow familiar with your publishing style.


It’s crunch time. If you want an excellent publication that doesn’t let you (and your readers) down, this is your chance to prove yourself a quality book publisher with a future in the industry. There really is no way to avoid this stage of the process… put friends on notice, make the kids walk the dog, lock the office door, take the phone off the hook and put every sentence through its paces.

Contracting-out the job

You may wish to engage a copy-editor and/or a proofreader to complete this stage of the work for you. Agree on the terms of the job and the cost before they embark on the job, and which house style you require them to follow. Don’t expect the work to be done swiftly if you want accuracy. As with every part of the publishing process, if you want speed, anticipate errors and an invoice that reflects your impatience.

Start at the end

After several reads of a manuscript, you’re bound to have been alert to copy errors in the first half, and blind to them in the second. On one of your error-hunting missions, work backwards through your book, starting at the last section and working your way to the first, giving fresh eyes to text that’s probably not had much focussed attention.

Mistakes on mistakes

One of the easiest stages to make proofreading mistakes is when you’re correcting errors. Get into the habit of altering the text, then reading the whole sentence again to ensure you have corrected it properly.

Avoiding litigation

As an independent publisher, it’s crucial to ensure that what you are publishing does not defame anyone. If you’re quoting a person or a source, check that you’ve been accurate. Be accurate with the portrayal of people’s identity (job titles, spelling of their names, backgrounds). If you are writing about real events, think about changing names and locations to protect the privacy of individuals, places and businesses, and include a disclaimer in your book’s front matter. Be scrupulous about this process and don’t rush it. Check every source, quote, attribution and reference. If in doubt about anything, leave it out.

Copyright clearances

If your work quotes from or includes the work of others, you’ll need to get clearance from whoever owns or manages the copyright of the material. Usually, your first port of call is the publisher of the work, who may seek clearance for your use of the material from the author. Sometimes, work is out of copyright and in the public domain, and there may not be a need to get clearance, although out-of-copyright material is often held in a collection that requires clearance for its use (for example, an art gallery that owns a copyright-free painting). Always check if clearance is required, or if there are limitations imposed on use of word and images; and always attribute a source where it is known.

Readers are your friends

“Let go of perfection and aim for consistency – imperfections will be picked up by your early readers.”

Independent publishers need to come to terms with a reality: publishing without the support of others will mean making at least a few errors in your first print run. Even whole teams of highly skilled users of the English language have been known to miss obvious inaccuracies before titles hit the printing press. Prepare for this inevitability by engaging ‘first readers’ of your work when it’s just been published – perhaps your beta readers – and ask them to give you feedback about spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, inconsistencies, etc. Your online publishing platform will allow you to make as many changes as required to the publicly available versions of your books. There’ll be a few rogue copies out there with errors… but that happens to every book publisher in the world.


WRITE REGARDLESSFor many writers, there is a willingness to hit the publish button in a rush at the last minute, but quality publishers will slow down at this penultimate moment and proofread the work properly first. Let go of perfection and aim for consistency – imperfections will be picked up by your early readers, so invite them into the process. You can see the finish line from here, just don’t trip!

An extract from Write, Regardless!

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.

Writer, polish your publication!

“This is your chance to make your hard literary work shine!”

AT the pointy end of independently publishing a book, creative decisions come rushing at us from all directions. The pressure is on to have everything ‘perfect’ and ready, but don’t be fooled into thinking that’s the way it is in the book trade! Traditionally published books go through plenty of trial and error on their way to bookshelves. Here’s some tips about getting the look and feel of your book right, including the most controversial… your book cover.

Sense of entitlement

Writers love to dream up brilliant book titles that inspire our writing process, but we’ll often fight like cornered animals at the very suggestion of letting those ideas go. After all, our books are unique brainchildren, so the names we give them are incredibly personal; but as a book is approaching publication, and a final title needs to be settled on, remain open to alternatives.

Revive the Thesaurus

Beta readers are often the key to great title ideas. They are invariably our books’ first readers and can usually identify our themes more clearly. One of the best ways to spark title ideas is to ask beta readers to name a few keywords that came to mind as they read our manuscripts. Look these up in a thesaurus and you’ll soon see there are many ways to say the same thing, using several incredibly unique words to do so.

tumblr_o801mkmK6m1vv9h5to1_1280Book trade wisdom

The international marketplace is the best place to identify book title parameters. Long titles (more than six words) can struggle to maintain visual presence in online book sites, although there are plenty of successful examples, like Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003). Many successful series rely on a short ‘master’ title, like the Twilight series, allowing varied and often longer sub-titles. Non-fiction books traditionally require straplines, a form of sub-heading. 

Title theft!

We all want to be original, but chances are there are other books out there with the same or similar titles as ours (there will be at least one other writer with your name, also!). There is no copyright on titles. Somewhere between accepting everything is unique but few things are original, your book will find its place. Don’t call your American Civil War novel Gone With The Wind, of course, but don’t stress about similarities with other books and authors.

Judging a great book

The overwhelming majority of readers will judge your book instantly on its cover. Googling ‘book covers’ will lead you into internet nightmare country: everyone has an opinion in this highly contentious space. My advice is to keep things very, very simple. Engage a cover design artist or work up your own cover on software like Photoshop or Canva. The basic version of Canva is free to use, with templates and very low-cost elements for sale within it (such as images) to make perfectly good eBook and paperback covers.

Screen shot 2016-06-16 at 3.00.26 PMKeep it simple

One strong image, one point of focus. Less is more on an effective book cover.

Size matters

Books are invariably sold with only the front cover at thumbnail size on desktop or mobile screens. The cover image and typography need to work effectively at that tiny scale. If buyers cannot read your cover, or get something from its imagery, they’ll keep looking.

Where’s the edge?

Most online booksellers and printed book catalogues display book covers against a white background. If you want your cover to stand out, make sure it’s got solid edges. White or light covers will tend to disappear.

A designer relationship

If you’ve got strong ideas about your book cover and can operate basic computer software, it’s probably best that you design your own cover. Expecting to pay a designer to merely push buttons for you while you muck around with ideas will drive you both insane and cost you a lot of money. If you have no visual skills at all but you’re excited by the prospect of what an experienced creative will come up with, engage a designer by agreeing on price, time scale and outcomes beforehand.

“Your designer may come up with the winning idea at the very last stage of design.”

What to expect from a cover designer

It’s acceptable to expect that a designer will come up with an initial range of ideas for you both to choose a general design direction from; it’s also acceptable for a designer to argue their case with you – always stay open to ideas that come out of the blue. Designing is a creative process, just like writing, so accept that your designer may come up with the winning idea at the very last stage of design, just like your manuscript takes best shape close to the end of the rewriting process.

Picky clients pay more

If you keep making changes, expect to be charged. Good designers accept there will always be some amendments – three free alteration sessions is the standard (and appears in traditionally published book contracts) – but if you take the piss, it’ll appear on your bill.

What a designer will expect of an author

Time. Nothing great ever came from a rush job. Furnish your designer with complete, accurate cover copy (title, author name and blurb) that will not require any changes to be made; and a cover template (with your book’s unique barcode). Basic respect for their process should be a given, but it’s unfortunately quite rare. You might have spent years on your book, so an effective ‘face’ on it will take weeks or months to get right.

Ebook covers

Your online publishing platform will supply you with the correct dimensions for creating your eBook cover, which will be the equivalent of just the front cover of a printed book (no spine, no back cover, no barcode). Check this great video on how to use Canva to create an effective eBook cover.


Paperback covers

Your print on demand (POD) publishing platform will supply you with a template (usually with a barcode, if you give them your ISBN) based on the number of pages in your paperback document. Remember, the page count will always be greater than the number of pages allocated a page number in your book (it’s got front and end matter, right?). Remind yourself about the elements of book building). If you change the number of pages in your book’s interior file, the width of the book spine will change and you’ll need to re-size your cover design accordingly. Here’s a great video on how to use Canva to create an effective printed book cover.


Brilliant blurbs

Everywhere your book is sold and marketed – online, bookshop shelves, bibliographic services, libraries – there’s a chance to attract readers with a great sales pitch, and there is no reason to use anything different to your back cover blurbWhen creating a great blurb, the best place to start is the plotting work you did on your book. Keep it short – it’s not supposed to be a synopsis – and keep the reader guessing about your story’s turning points.

Where’s your proof?

The trial and error of independent book publishing will become apparent once you receive an uncorrected proof of your book, the culmination of years of hard literary work. Most POD platforms allow you to order one version of your title after you’ve uploaded the interior and exterior files. This small spend is your chance to save yourself hours of angst (and plenty of money) by holding one copy in your hand and checking it for accuracy.


WRITE REGARDLESSThe publishing industry uses many tried and true techniques to create books that look and sound great to buyers. There is no need for independent publishers to reinvent the wheel – emulate the book trade and allow your publication to seamlessly take its place among the titles available to hungry readers. Don’t attempt a book cover design unless you’re very sure you know what’s expected, but if engaging a designer, it’s still a good idea to get across the elements of effective book design to ensure the process runs smoothly. This is your chance to make your hard literary work shine!

An extract from Write, Regardless!

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.