How to self-publish: a guide and a few cautionary tales

You’ve written a book, or you want to write a book. You have two choices for publishing that book:

  1. You can query a publisher and hope they’ll accept your manuscript.
  2. You can self-publish.

This is the first post in a series. In this post, I give a high-level overview of your choices for getting your book into print (either through a publishing house or through self-publishing). The succeeding posts provide a guide to self-publishing.

Why I’m qualified to write this series:

  1. I’m a self-published author (and a technical writer with hundreds of technical books under my belt). I’ve also ghost-written a book, but of course can’t name it.
  2. I work as a Development Editor (basically, a book project manager) at a major computer book publisher.
  3. I’m a professional editor, interior book designer, typesetter, and indexer.

Option 1: get a publisher

Option 1 sounds great, doesn’t it? You submit your query letter and the publisher accepts it. You sign the contract. Boom! Done. All you have to do is write the book and send it off to the publisher, right?

Well, not quite. Read that contract carefully. Depending on the publisher, you may have rounds of editing with the publisher, or you may lose complete control over your manuscript once they have it. You almost certainly will have no control over the cover, and your book’s success (as measured in sales) is in your hands. The publisher expects you, not them, to market your book so that bookstores will carry it and people will buy it. Your royalties are based on sales, so if it doesn’t sell, you won’t make money on your book.

So why publish through a publisher? What do they have to offer in exchange for keeping the majority of the profits on your book? They take care of the costs of

  • editing
  • interior design
  • typesetting
  • cover design
  • printing and distributing

If your book needs indexing, typically you’ll need to do that yourself (but please don’t, unless you’re a professional indexer), or you’ll pay a professional indexer. If you’re lucky, the publisher will pay to have your book indexed, but that’s rare.

If you want to go this route, research the publishers you want to approach. Find out what they prefer (a proposal in the form of a query letter plus a sample of the book is typical). Then submit your proposal in the format and manner they require.

As with every part of this series on publishing and self-publishing, you’ll find a ton of books on the subject.

Cautionary note

This is super important: a legitimate publisher will never ask you to pay for any of the tasks I listed previously (editing, typesetting, and so on). If a company claims to be a publisher, but they want you to pay for any part of the publishing process, they are not a publisher. They are instead offering services to self-publishers. They are disguising themselves as traditional publishers because some people think there’s something wrong with self-publishing.

Option 2: self-publish

Option 2 requires a lot more work and investment from you. In a nutshell, to self-publish a book, you’ll need to

  1. Write a book.
  2. Get that book reviewed before you publish it.
  3. Get your book professionally edited.
  4. Hire a professional to create the cover.
  5. Hire a professional to design and typeset the interior. (And, if needed, to index your book.)
  6. Start marketing your book.
  7. Decide how you’re going to print and distribute your book.

(As I write each post, I’ll link to it in the list above. Note that most of these posts are long, but each is full of practical information, the kind I had to spend years in the industry learning, all distilled for you in one place.)

Note: Many people have written many books on each of these steps. So I only touch on the essentials in the succeeding posts. There’s no way around it: you’re going to need to research the topic in more depth. In the following posts, I

  • cover each step at a high level
  • give you a lot of practical information
  • offer you a few cautionary tales
  • refer you to good-quality books and resources

Best of luck! And hey, if you are self-publishing (or if a publishing house is publishing your book), feel free to link to your book in a comment to this post or any of the succeeding posts.

Pro tip: successful comments are short, crisp, and to the point.

Taking the big leap

We all have that friend. Let’s call her Joan. Joan always says she’ll do something, and then never does it. She says she’ll meet you for tea at a bookstore. You’re looking forward to it; you haven’t seen Joan in months. (And there’s a reason why you haven’t seen her. Just watch.) But when the day arrives, she calls and cancels. She’s sick and not feeling up to going out, she says.

“Sure, no problem,” you say. “Another day.” And you reschedule. But when that next time arrives, she calls again. She can’t make it. Something came up at home that has to be dealt with right now.

This continues, and you start to notice she’s doing this to other people. She promises she’ll attend her son’s third-grade play, but something comes up at work that positively, absolutely, has to be handled that evening. So she misses the play, breaking her son’s heart once again. She promises him that for sure she’ll attend the fourth-grade play, forgetting she said that last year when she missed the second-grade play. She doesn’t seem to realize that she will never have another chance to see her son in his third-grade play. And frankly, for the majority of us, nothing at work is so important that it has to be dealt with on a Friday night. It was just another excuse.

She’s even doing it to herself. For example, she’s passionately dedicated to improving her art skills, so she signs up for a pottery class. (Don’t laugh. Artists are producing some amazing pottery these days.) But she skips one class after another because something comes up each time. And she doesn’t do her homework because when she has time to do it, she does something else.

In short, if it’s not one thing, it’s another. Something always comes up that interferes with Joan’s plans.

Don’t get me wrong, we all have things come up that interfere with our plans. I’m talking about people for whom something always comes up, not just now and then. It isn’t just procrastination, though procrastination plays its part with these people as another way to stop themselves. Joan is never going to make that tea date with you. She’s never going to see her son in any of his school plays. She’s never going to finish that pottery class.

Believing as I do that

  1. we are all in charge of ourselves,
  2. we all have free will, and
  3. nobody “makes” us do anything we don’t want to do,

I’ve never understood why people do this to themselves (and others). I’ve always assumed they just didn’t want to do whatever they committed to, and then they found reasons not to do it.

And I’ve been pretty close to the mark. In his book, The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level (awesome book—I highly recommend it), Gay Hendricks has a more complete answer.  In a nutshell, he says we put barriers in our own way when we get too close to a level of success that we’re not comfortable with. Which explains this phenomenon quite clearly.

I’m not far wrong when I say that people do this to themselves because they don’t want to do whatever. But it’s deeper and more complex than a matter of want to/don’t want to. It’s a matter of being afraid to. (The fear part is simple; why we’re afraid is more complex.)

If you want to understand the Joans in your life, or if you’re a Joan yourself, or even if you’re not a Joan but you feel you are often stymied in your efforts to get to the next step in your life, get this book. Read it. And learn to say “yes” to life.

(P.S. My apologies to the awesome Joans I know; I’m not picking on you!)

Fear and Love

For the past 30 years, A Course in Miracles (ACIM) has been a profound influence on how I live. ACIM’s most important teaching is that we each have only one thing to choose:

  • We can choose to spread fear.
  • Or we can choose to spread love.

And a second teaching: if we choose fear, we just need to choose love the next time.

Everything else follows from those choices.

People have been telling you your entire life that you should be afraid, that you are at risk in this world. To be afraid of people with different skin colors. Different cultures. Different religions. Different political leanings. Different ways of loving. And if you look at the world, you’ll see proof that those fears are real.

But the alternative is also true: love is stronger than fear; people of different colors, religions, cultures, beliefs, and genders are not to be feared, but are instead fellow human beings. If you look at the world, you’ll see proof of love being supreme.

Which is true? ACIM would say only the loving vision is real, and even then it’s only a dream we’ve created out of our beliefs. But if you believe in fear, it isn’t going to help you to tell you that fear isn’t real, at least not yet.

It’s a matter of focus and what you pay attention to. When given a choice of news items, rather than go for the ones that foster fear, instead notice the life-affirming ones, that ones that tell of human beings being kind and loving, generous and helpful. It can take a little while to change the habits of a lifetime, but stick with it.

Choose love this time, instead of fear. Choose to believe in love, and to see love, and to spread love.

The reward is heaven.

The Tree of Lives is about reincarnation

The Tree of Life image has long been significant to me. Whenever I’ve seen it, I felt I was seeing a message I couldn’t interpret. Then one day I was reading Genesis in the Ferrar Fenton translation of the Bible. (The Ferrar Fenton translation is one of the most accurate versions available.)

“And out of the ground the EVER-LIVING GOD cause to grow all the trees that were beautiful and good for food, as well as the Tree of Lives in the center of the Garden; and the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”

Normally this is translated as “the Tree of Life.” When I read “lives,” not “life,” in a flash of inspiration, I got a new vision of reincarnation.

Our existence as greater souls

We’re used to speaking of the past and the future, and of past lives and future lives. Thinking in terms of past and future is just a construct we use to understand time. All time is simultaneous.

As I’ve learned from Seth and Metatron and my other teachers, each of us is a unique facet of a greater soul that exists outside space and time. That doesn’t mean there is one vast amorphous soul that exists everywhere and at all times, it means that many greater souls exist outside space and time. Each of those greater souls wishes to experience life in time and space. (I’ll call this 3D life, for three-dimensional life.) To do so, a greater soul inserts facets of itself into the space-time continuum—not just once, but many many times.

We are each facets of a greater soul

What do I mean by “facets”? Just as each of us has different moods and ways of expressing ourselves, the greater soul that we are part of has different aspects—far greater and more varied, of course, than we are, but the principle is the same. As it is in Heaven, so it is below. Each of those facets is a unique expression of that greater soul and will never be duplicated. Each facet has a purpose; some facets share similar purposes, some are working on something almost completely different. And each of those facets is a person on this planet, somewhere and somewhen in time.

All those facets live, grow, and die within the matrix of time and space, and then return to the greater soul. Each decision each of those facets makes affects all other facets—sometimes strongly, sometimes not at all, depending on what each facet’s purpose is.

Each facet of a greater soul affects all other facets

How does this work in practical terms? When some other version of your self—let’s call that other self Dana—makes a decision in his/her own time, that decision reverberates through the fabric of space and time and affects all other selves. Because all time is simultaneous, there is no such thing as a past life (or a future one, for that matter). Therefore, Dana’s decisions affect you. Let’s say Dana is exploring and learning about the same kinds of things you are. In that case, Dana’s decisions affect you more strongly than they affect another facet of your greater soul that might be exploring other aspects of life.

When I do readings with people and access other lifetimes, the lifetimes I see most clearly are those in which a facet of that person’s greater soul is making a decision that is affecting the person I am doing the reading for. I give that other self enough information to make a different decision, and that change affects the person I am doing the reading with.

The Tree of Lives illustrates our existence in and outside of space and time

tree-of-lives

 

 

 

Seven surprising foods you can freeze

Have you ever had a quantity of some food that you couldn’t use right away? Maybe you had some egg whites from separating eggs for a recipe that only called for the yolks, or you bought butter on sale. Of course you know about freezing fruits, vegetables, meats, and leftover meals. But you don’t know you can freeze this food item, and you don’t want to waste food. So you stash it in the refrigerator thinking you’ll use it soon. Then you forget about it, and then it goes bad and you have to throw it out anyway.

The solution for many food items is to freeze them. Here’s a list of seven surprising things you can freeze:

  • bread
  • butter (I mean the real thing, though I’ve read that margarine also freezes well)
  • cheese, grated (whole chunks of cheese don’t freeze well)
  • eggs: whole, yolks, and whites (if freezing whole eggs, remove them from the shell and store in a small container)
  • heavy whipping cream
  • nuts (I always freeze nuts anyway; their high oil content makes them go rancid, so freezing helps them stay good longer)
  • ginger root, fresh

As with anything  you freeze, be sure to store these food items in freezer storage containers. For fluid items, allow room for expansion.

Making the world a better place

One of the best things you can do to improve your world is to dedicate yourself to truth. That means being honest with yourself, as honest as you possibly can be. If you aren’t used to it, it can be hard to figure out where to start or even how to distinguish the truth from the lies you’ve been telling yourself. But the first time you successfully tell yourself a truth where you’ve been lying to yourself before, the results are profound. It feels good down to a supremely deep level of your being. You’ll wonder where that good feeling has been hiding. You’ll want to do more of it.

Next, start being honest with others. This doesn’t mean blurting out everything that’s on your mind, but it does mean telling the truth instead of lying. Yes, I mean even those little white lies. If someone doesn’t look good in a dress, find a way to say that kindly. Pair it with something positive that’s also truthful: “The cut of that dress is lovely, but that’s not the most flattering color on you.” Or, “Dude, I love your enthusiasm about the game, but let’s talk about something else now.”

If you can’t figure out how to be honest with everyone, an excellent place to start is with family or friends. When my daughter was born, I vowed to never lie to her, and I haven’t yet. We have a great relationship, and much of that is due to her having a mother she could trust to always tell her the truth.

So choose a few people—maybe your closest friends—and vow to yourself that you will never lie to them.

Why is this so important? Because all lies are based in fear. When you lie, you create a unreality that resonates with fear. Unless they are evolved, the person you lie to senses that fear and responds with their own fear.

Because love is the opposite of fear, telling the truth is one of the most loving things you can do. The more love you spread, the more you improve the world and the closer you are to understanding what’s really real.

How to alleviate fear and loathing in the political season

Instead of focusing on your fear for and hatred of someone or some group, see what it feels like to focus on loving, compassionate thoughts for them. That person, those people, got there because of their own pain and fear. It won’t help their situation to send more pain and fear their way, and filling yourself with fear, anger, and hatred certainly doesn’t help you. In addition to disturbing your peace of mind, such thoughts affect your physical health in very real ways. If you want to know more about how to change your thinking, see my book on forgiveness.
book faire

If you live in or around Sonoma County, I’ll be at the First Annual West Sonoma Book Faire on Thursday, November 10, starting at 6 p.m.

Cover for The Forgiving Lifestyle

Free fonts, paid-for fonts, and font licensing

Everyone who loves typography would say there’s no such thing as too many fonts. Even if you have a hundred Bodoni clones in your library, you still want more. Not to mention the many gorgeous new fonts coming out. So here are some listings of the best resources for all you typography-loving folks.

Free fonts

Here’s a list of some of the best places to get free fonts (free, shareware, donation-ware; personal and commercial licenses). I’ve commented on the interface because when you are browsing for fonts, the easier it is to find the type and style you want, the better. See my note on licensing (below) for information on when you can use free fonts.

  • 1001 Fonts. Nice interface. Font licenses are clearly indicated when browsing.  You can browse by category. They offer the Ultimate Font Download: a bundle of 10,000 fonts that are normally free, shareware, or donation ware, but in buying the bundle, you get the commercial rights to them all. Quality varies.
  • DaFont. Clean interface. Licensing info clear when browsing. You can browse by category.
  • FontSpace. Attractive interface. The Browse page makes browsing easier with many, many categories. License are indicated only on the individual fonts’ pages. This makes it harder to pick out the fonts with the licensing you want.
  • Font Zone. Tons o’ free fonts. Interface is okay; license details are only on the individual fonts’ pages.
  • Font Squirrel. My favorite source for free fonts. Specializes in fonts that are free for commercial use (see my note below about licensing). Beautiful interface; licensing info clear when browsing.. You can download most fonts from the site directly, but some links are to offsite sources, where the font might not be free.
  • Simply the Best Fonts. A nice interface; the landing page has a list of categories to make browsing easier. Licensing info clear when browsing a category.
  • Urban Fonts. This site has paid-for fonts as well; this is the link to their free fonts. Free, shareware, linkware. Includes trial versions of paid-for fonts that you have to buy a commercial license to use.

Added July 9, 2016: it’s unusual, but possible, to discover a well-made font that is also free. As in many areas of life, you get what you paid for. Free fonts are fun and useful in a lot of ways, but the powerhouses are the paid-for fonts.

Paid-for fonts

The heavy lifters. The quality of fonts you purchase from the following should be top-end, with many many glyphs and alternates that font-savvy programs like InDesign can use.

  • Adobe. You used to be able to purchase perpetual licenses for fonts from Adobe. They split their font services into two:
    • A subscription-based service called  Adobe TypeKit. As long as you subscribe you can use any font on TypeKit. But if you drop your subscription, the fonts are gone.
    • Perpetual licenses for Adobe fonts through their partner, FontSpring. (To purchase fonts with other currencies and languages, visit Fonts.com.)
  • Linotype. Linotype has some great fonts, but I’ve been unhappy with their customer service and the quality of some of the fonts I bought from them.
  • MyFonts. My favorite source for paid fonts. Offers fonts from many foundries, ranging from the monoliths to small one-person design houses. Some fonts are free. Watch their sales; you can sometimes get a font family for 90% off. This is great for the expensive fonts. Also, if you are trying to identify a font, use their “What the font” identifier. Some member of the active forum will usually identify your font within a half hour to an hour. If you want to find a font similar to one you want to use (but can’t, for some reason), you can use the My Fonts tool for that, too.
  • Monotype. Fonts are excellent quality, but seldom cheap. Monotype sometimes has awesome sales, and also has a subscription service like TypeKit.
  • T26. If you sign up for their email, you’ll get a monthly font showcase–kind of like a bakery sending you images of their best cakes, cupcakes, and cookies.

A recommended font manager

If you have a lot of fonts, you’re going to want to use a font manager. I’m particularly fond of High-Logic’s Main Type. Their free version is just right if you have 2,500 fonts or fewer. If you have more than 2,500 fonts, buy the standard version.

The only reason to get the pro version (as far as my needs go) is that the pro version will automatically activate fonts for InDesign and other such products. For example, if you open an InDesign file and the fonts you used for that file aren’t installed, Main Type installs the fonts for you.

A note about font licensing

Many free fonts are free to use for any use—commercial or personal. And if you intend to use your font for personal use (homemade greeting cards you are sending to your family and friends, flyers and posters for your own use, and so on), that’s all you need to know.

But if you are using a font for a commercial use (that is, if you are selling something that uses the font, or advertising something using that font), make sure the license is for commercial use. For example, if you are creating a template for someone’s book, and you are being paid to create that template, that’s commercial use and requires a commercial license. Or if you are selling t-shirts with a quotation on them that uses that font, that’s also commercial use and requires a commercial license. When you purchase a font, the license almost always includes commercial use.

Free fonts fall into the following categories when it comes to commercial use:

  • Free for commercial use. Sometimes a donation is encouraged, but no payment is required.
  • Donation-ware: can be licensed for commercial use with a small payment to the font creator.
  • Strictly personal use; cannot be used commercially. If you really love a font and want to use it, track down the font creator and get permission to use it in writing. If you can’t get permission, use another font. Period. Don’t use a personal-use-only font for commercial use, even if you think you’ll never be caught. It’s just not right.

If it is a free font and you don’t know what the licensing terms are, don’t use it for commercial use.