Self-publishing: hat #2

Every self-publisher wears six hats. Six. It’s not an option. That’s how it is.

  1. Writer
  2. Editor
  3. Graphics
  4. Technical Layout Designer
  5. Marketing
  6. Coordinator

Even if you plan to provide self-publishing services for others, you need to know the process. You need to wear six hats.

Hat #1: Writer

Hat #2: Editor

Spellchecking is not editing. It is just that. Spellchecking. That is something your computer does. Editing requires human interaction.

An editor ensures that your message flows. They fact-check for you. They know rules of writing like when to use specific characters and how to create them. If you don’t know the difference between a hyphen and an em dash and en dash, you need to hone your editing skills or hire an editor.

Add to the mix the fact that every field follows a specific style of formatting. That style has to be followed in every instance. The final product will be judged by your reader and by retailers debating over whether they should carry your book. If you are not familiar with the various style manuals and when to apply each one, you need to hire an editor.

If you didn’t know your word processing software can do this or if you have never seen this menu, then you need to attend my upcoming workshop, Learn to Self-Publish Like a Pro.

A good editor is your guide to safe travels. They can prevent you from making embarrassing mistakes.


“Great minds think alike” is a common quote. But, most people don’t know that is not the complete quote. The rest of it is, “…and Fools never differ.” You might want to think twice before using that quote as a compliment!


Six hats. One book. Let me show you how.

Next time …Hat #3: Graphics


Self-publishing: put your six hats on

Every self-publisher wears six hats. Six. It’s not an option. That’s how it is.

  1. Writer
  2. Editor
  3. Graphics
  4. Technical Layout Designer
  5. Marketing
  6. Coordinator

Even if you plan to provide self-publishing services for others, you need to know the process. You need to wear six hats.

Hat #1: Writer

Books usually have words. Sometimes the message is pure graphics like a coloring book, an art book or a photo book.

You still need to write the bits that make up a book. There is text for the cover. There is even more text for a dust jacket. There is copyright text.

There are specific styles to writing every kind of text. Adhere to the basic rules, and you can get your book into bookstores. Ignore rules and stores may decline to carry a book you have self-published and customers may reject it.

Your book will begin as a text file. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright law automatically protects your original document from the moment you create it in a tangible form. But who are “you”? You need to embed your identity in the document.

Embed your identification into every text file. Your words belong to you. But, you need to embed your identification within the file, connecting that file to you.



Six hats. One book. Let me show you how.

Next time …Hat #2: Editor


Learn to Self-Publish Like a Pro

In January, I will be leading a one-day workshop where I will teach attendees how to self-publish like a pro. What does that mean? I will teach you how to create beautiful, professional books and what you need to know about designing books.

There are a myriad of rules about how a book is supposed to look. How the pages are supposed to be arranged. How the pages are supposed to be numbered.

Retailers may refuse to carry your book, if the pages are not created following the norm. Unless you are avant-garde and have a secret outlet and an incredible reputation, bookstores may balk.

I can tell you how to lay out your book and how to get it to the sales sources you need.

Register online now. Or register for someone else and gift them during this holiday season.

Bring your content.

Bring your words.

Bring your graphics.

Bring your wifi-enabled laptop. We go online and do this for real.

Workshop is $40 – but the coffee is free!!

Register via Eventbrite today.


We all have excuses

Every one of us can come up with a reason not to write. Sometimes those reasons are pretty darned good. So forgive yourself.

I have not blogged since July for a very good reason. I am a chemo survivor. I don’t say that I am a cancer survivor because there is a high risk that it will return even though I am currently in remission. Surviving chemotherapy has been a devastatingly difficult task.

By July of this year, I thought I was feeling well enough to get back to something akin to normal. I revved up my career, I was planning on serving jury duty and getting involved with the presidential election process, I was getting involved with a historic preservation group—and then I found myself back in the hospital with pneumonia.

Chemo destroys your cells, including the healthy ones, and your immune system. I thought I was approaching what used to be normal, but I was wrong. My oncologist advised against taking on so much and, by August, I ceased my involvement in everything.

I am feeling a bit better and am going to try to start blogging again. I really miss writing. I’m paying closer attention to my abilities and disabilities.

That’s good advice for writers. It is good to stretch your abilities but not if doing so will be the end of you. Find healthy activities and write what you can.

It is better to write in shorter bits and to write well, than it is to write until you exhaust yourself eking out drivel. (Not that you write drivel.)

I have noticed that readers continue to visit this blog. I thank you. I also felt like I owed you an explanation as to why I went silent.

I was asked to give a 30-minute radio interview about the books I have written. It will be streaming soon, along with another 30-minute radio interview scheduled for next Monday. So, as they say, I will see you on the radio!


Stop writing! Start Organizing!

A lot of us jot down ideas and save them until the rest of the story shows up. If you have been doing that, stop writing—and start organizing.

It’s exhilarating to get in the zone and start writing. It feels good and, after all, writing is the whole point.

But, if all you do is jump from one snippet to another, it is time to stop it. Collate your ideas. Can you even find them? Collect them. Organize them. Sift through them.

Chances are there are some treasures among the note cards, Applewriter disks, stickie notes, IBM Displaywriter “toaster” floppies, composition books, Zip disks and bar napkins. But, if you can’t find them, how do you even know?

Take some time and sort through what you have before adding to your personal collection. Don’t write another paragraph until you put the existing words to work, or delete them.

Finish something. Anything. Keep working until you actually write something complete. It could just be a short story. By New Year’s, it could be a novel.

So where do you start? The simplest way is to pick a system, or create one. That’s going to take some time. But, you have to do it or you will never bring the words together that hold a story, and you will never toss out the fun ones that are taking up space but will never become anything.

The perfect system does not matter. In fact, it does not exist. Years ago, when I lived on the East Coast, I sat through an entire meeting of the Boston Computer Society that focused on the perfect way to organize a hard-drive. They were new and we were convinced there was a way to control all that data that was now stored in one place.

In fact, our final exam when I earned my Personal Coordinator Certificate from University of Southern Maine-Portland consisted of removing a floppy drive, replacing it with a hard-drive which we then formatted, installed a DOS operating system on complete with an directory system.

The BCS never came up with a solution. If our USM hard-drive functioned, we passed.

There is no perfect solution. There is only one that make sense to you and has the longest life possible.

Wait for it…let’s take a fieldtrip!

cropped-hack.gifLet’s figure out a way to collect all those words. First, pick a storage system that will have a very long life. Plain text is best. It survives. BBEdit is my favorite for the Mac and Wordpad is good for PCs.

If you are a little more sophisticated, store ideas in an spreadsheet. Create categories and label a tab for each. The more you know about how to use the Outline feature in Excel, the better. But spreadsheets are great for rearranging information.

I love me a good database but that’s probably more work than most writers want to create and work with.

Next, figure out a way to keep everything together. Most of us use clouds these days and, unlike the old BCS groups, we relish the fact that there is no such thing as a perfect organizing system. Just pick a cloud and organize any way that makes sense to you.

Then learn to use tags. You can attach tags to any kind of file. With Word, use the Tag field when you choose Save As.


So, collect your bits and pieces. Convert them to some file you find easy to work with. Then turn your collection into a finished piece.






Writing. Where do you start?

I was asked a really obvious question recently. “Where do you start?”

It’s not a question I think about any more. I jump in and write.

There are a gazillion ways to start writing. But, that’s not a helpful answer.

First of all, be organized. Think through your story, create your characters and your scenes. Essentially, every story from a blog post to “War and Peace” involves a dilemma that needs to be resolved. There needs to be a reason for the story to be written.

I start by asking myself what the vast majority of readers need to know. And, then I answer the question.

Second of all, ignore the organization efforts and let the story roll. That’s what makes the story interesting.

Listen to a good storyteller. They make the words in between the question and the answer intriguing.

The simplest form of storytelling is song. We sing stories all the time. Almost every culture does.

Songs have a method. They go full circle. They repeat sections. They create experience.

And, art is math. There is an entire society devoted to the subject, the American Mathematical Society. Math is about balance. So is writing.

Get to know resources. Delve into the archives of Alan Lomax, Zora Neale Hurston, and Mary Elizabeth Barnicle at Cultural Equity.

Listen to stories, set to music. Then imagine them without the music. Now imagine them growing longer and with more detail.

Surely you have listened to the Prairie Home Companion. You get the idea.


There are wonderful old stories like “Train Hundred And Eleven.” You don’t need a handbill to follow the characters in the story. Whoever wrote that tune makes you jump right in. “July 17, 1910…” Suddenly, you are in the train yard.


A few years ago, I came across Joel Mabus’ The Banjo Monologues. I can’t forget his story of “Cindy, Gerald and Jerald Lee.” Like the consummate storyteller, Mabus can’t resist telling a story about his story.


Find your stories. Find the balance. And, yes, jump in.


Sharing Your Words with Easy Digital Downloads

If you are reading this, then Think::Fast::Write::Fast blog has successfully moved and brought you with us!

I do have something novel to share with you today. If you want to sell your words directly to blog readers, without anything very sophisticated, try Easy Digital Downloads. That’s actually the title of this WordPress plugin.

It is so amazingly easy to install. That’s not hype. Everyone says that. It really was stunningly simple.

Here is what it does. It sets up a system within your WordPress account that makes it possible to sell media directly to your readers. I have been building a database of information about people buried in Springdale Cemetery, in Peoria, IL, and have published two books about the cemetery. A third is being fact-checked.

I create PDF versions of files, upload them to my WordPress account, and set a price. I write a description. I’m done.

You set up your account information to accept PayPal or Amazon Payments, or both. The plugin downloads the file they paid for. They open it with any PDF reader. No fuss, no muss.

You knew you were waiting to hear me say it. Let’s take a fieldtrip!

hack  I have added a menu option “Downloadable Genealogy Reports” to my blog. That takes you to a list of what you can download. It’s just a WordPress page. I created a separate page for each item. Then I created a link from the Downloadable List to those pages.

You also have a Free option, if you just want to offer a download. Want to try it? I created a free downloadable report at so you can see what I’m talking about.

My idea is to perhaps collect short downloads to create a book which I would publish through Lulu. I have done that before, without charging for the individual entries.


Know your tools

Clients hire me to “edit a book and get it online.” Expectations are everything.

When someone hires me, I expect that they have done the digital corrections already. Correcting spelling errors is hardly even editing, since the computer does that for you. You can train your computer to override certain unusual spellings. You can create custom spelling dictionaries for unusual spellings that you only use in a particular document.

A savvy writer understands their tools and hones them to work in a way that improves writing. You can train your computer to help you edit as you write. Teach your word processor how to punctuate.

hack     #fieldtrip Let’s take a quick peek at the Grammar Settings in Microsoft Word. If you have not customized the settings, please do yourself a favor and at least look at the options. You will find settings that control when your word processor should indicate that there may be a better way of writing your words.

I will be offering a course on how to Write Like A Writer soon. But, in the meantime, open your Word Options and take a look at what your word processor has been asked to do for you. I do not have “Use of first person” activated because I often do write in first person. I don’t want Word to flag first person content as something I should revise.


Please note, that there is an option for “Spaces required between sentences.” The correct number is “1.” The current style dictates that there should never be two spaces used. Ever. For any reason.

Even Word doesn’t call these options editing. They are called spelling and grammar. You hire an editor.

But, first, do your due diligence and present a clean copy. They are your words. Make them shine.

#spelling  #grammar  #fieldtrip  #writelikeawriter  #thinkfastwritefast



Building a book

Writing a book is about more than writing a book. We treasure books. We understand how to read books. A book is more than words. It can, and should be, an interactive experience.


Lulu Author Ray C. Freeman published the FIRST EVER Augmented reality pop-up book! His book features virtual three-dimensional artwork by eighteen artists. Learn more about Ray’s book Pop Up (AR)t A Technology Enhanced Publication here:


Lulu Author Suzanne Conboy-Hill’s new book Let Me Tell You a Story is geared towards individuals with literacy difficulties. Her book is a collection of short literary fiction and poetry, exploring themes of relationships, disability, loss and vengeance. All sound tracks are accessed by scanning an QR code. Lulu is proud to be part of this wonderful project! . Learn more here:

hackFieldtrip! Making a QR code is easy and younger people love them. I used QRcode Generator. There are several out there but this is one that lets you create something more decorative than the traditional black-and-white QR code.


You just type in your web address and your QR code is generated. You can alter the shape 14 different ways and choose colors for foreground and background. You can embed your logo in the center. Mine is a big long so it isn’t as pretty as it could be. Save it. Use it like any graphic. People scan it with their smartphone, using any QR code scanner. Your website pops up. You can direct QR users to a specific page, or to your website. In my case, I used my WordPress blog instead of my website. Have fun. Share yours! I’d like to see your QR code!

You can do really interesting things with books. Self-publishing has moved way beyond what your local copy shop can handle.

Yes, I am biased. I prefer Lulu. I admit it. I don’t work for them. I publish through them for myself and others. They offer hardcover and other options you just can’t get from other publishing companies.





Gimme a pipe

One unresolved self-publishing issue is pipes. Browse an old copy of PC Magazine from 1993 and you’ll see that the pipe concept has been around for a long time. Basically, for those who don’t want to click-and-read, it’s a method of moving digital information from one place to another.

Whether you are self-publishing for someone else, or hiring someone to self-publish for you, pipes matter. How do you get your information into the cyber bookstore?

The person who will receive the royalties needs a self-publishing account. That person sets up their tax information, designates what account should receive the royalties, and a host of other bits of data.

The person who actually uploads the content of the book and the book cover needs access to that same account.

So if you hire someone to format your file for any kind of a book, they need to have access to your account. If you are an author, do you really want to give your Createspace or Lulu password to someone you hire? The author’s account contains credit card information, which is actually pipe in from

Once a client accesses an author’s Createspace account they have full access to edit the account so that all royalties are deposited in the client’s account, instead of the author’s.

Someone needs to invent a way for editors and layout personnel to access a self-publishing author’s account without giving them full credit card, and other payment, access.

As editors and design staff, we need to inform authors that they need to help us advocate to protect their payment data.

No client has ever asked if I am bonded before giving me their passworded information. They don’t ask for legal contract wording to protect them.

I am concerned about the liability on my part. How do I protect myself? If uploaded data is less than perfect, I need to see the online viewer only accessible via passworded access.

All self-publishing companies need to address this issue.

How do you handle this? As an author, do you give out your password to editors and layout providers?

As an editor or designer, do you log in with authors’ passwords?