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


First things last

Sometimes the first thing we write needs to be last. In my case, an opening paragraph is the last thing I write.

When I was a newspaper reporter, I discovered, much to my dismay, that I was incapable of writing opening paragraphs. I had an editor, sitting just a few feet away in the pit, who always sighed when he opened digital copy of my stories. I knew what that meant. Once again, I fell short of the mark and my work was crying for a stellar opening paragraph.

I also knew what would happen next. He would start typing.

Read. Sigh. Type. Every article, every day.

And, in that newsroom, my load was three articles a day. That was a lot of humiliation.

My humiliation became a motivator. I was truly embarrassed that I was missing the target every single time. What was worse was that I actually thought I was writing respectable opening paragraphs.

In retrospect, I had the world’s most tolerant editor. He kept me on. He believed in my ability enough to tolerate my glaring weakness. He very gently mentioned to me a couple of times that I needed an opening paragraph. And, then he typed it in. After all, we were always on deadline.

Humiliated, I was determined to do better. I did a comparison of every single story I had written, holding each one up against my editor’s version. In every single instance, my editor’s version, with an extra paragraph, was much better.

I wanted to protest. I wanted to insist that I was convincing myself that the edited version was better merely out of respect for my supervisor. But, no, I had to admit it. His version was better.

I learned two lessons from that experience. The first lesson is one that holds up to this day.

Every single time I have been edited, it has been for the better. It is still difficult to part with my version.

I work hard to pen my work. But, yes, a second set of eyes was a good thing and it still is. In fact, in that newsroom,  two humans edited every story we wrote before it was released to the public.

The second, and perhaps the more important lesson, I learned was how to write a good opening paragraph. Everyone needs a technique. For some people, I do believe it is organic. For me? I have to focus. I needed a technique, a process, a method.

The interesting thing was that both editors kept what I thought was my opening paragraph. They didn’t replace it. They just added the missing opening paragraph.

I developed the technique of writing my opening paragraph last. I write that way to this day. And, editors are thrilled.

I cannot tell you how great it felt the day when my editor opened one of my news articles—and I heard no sigh, followed by typing. He read it. He almost smiled. He put it back in the queue for the second editing.

That was the day I knew I could write. No, that was the day I knew I could author.

Until that time, I had merely been writing words and good, but incomplete, copy. I was never told my copy was not good. It was just incomplete. I had such a tendency to leap into the story. I was missing that first paragraph that would grab the reader.

My editor had patiently gone through every story, crafting that missing opening that should have been there. So I mimicked what they were doing. I wrote the opening after everything else was done.

Anyone can write words. I could type words from the dictionary and still not be an author. I was merely a writer. That day, I became an author.

We all have to start somewhere. This is my story about how I learned to write the first thing last.