Newbie author self-publishing checklist

This is the third post in my educational series, Self-Publishing 101. Perhaps one of the most overwhelming issues in publishing a book is where to start. Most don’t know what questions to ask because they don’t know enough to ask. Hopefully my lessons will help you find your way.

And please if you have any questions, you’re welcome to leave a comment.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I believe Joanna Penn, a highly successful self-published author, has the perfect recipe for a successful writing career. Each book you write, publish and market, will offer a new set of lessons, and one of the things Joanna stresses is sharing your knowledge with others. You can find Joanna’s links in my Self-Publishing 101 Links lesson.

One of Joanna’s helpful posts was a self-publishing checklist for new authors. I believe this is a good place to start as our brains seem to comprehend lists better than standard paragraphs. I’ve taken some of her suggestions and modified them for print books plus added my own suggestions.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with flowcharts. That would be the perfect format for a newbie author in learning how to write and publish a book. There are many twist and turns depending on the phase of the book and the format such as with or without photos, print, ebook or both. The list below tries to use the same flow chart concept, give it a whirl and let me know what you think.

1. Determine your style of book: fiction or non-fiction.

2. Finalize the genre.

3. Print or ebook, or both.

4. Once the title is finalized, apply for an ISBN number (if you use Amazon CreateSpace, or many of the printer services, they will do it for you). But there is only once source that provides the ISBN number and that is Bowker. You will also need a bar code and Bowker does that as well.

5. Schedule time for a graphic designer for your cover (they book up fast, so just block some time). As a side note, if you use Amazon CreateSpace or other all-in-one publishing services, this graphic design is included or provided with an additional fee.

5. Not a bad idea to schedule time for editors as well, or anyone that needs to work/read/review/format/print your book when finished. Let them know you are working on a book and an estimated finish date. Then keep in touch as you go along. I’m learning that now working on my third and fourth book. Especially if the estimated published date is going to be in the last quarter. September and October is a very busy time for designer and editors.

6. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to begin scheduling your book signings and speaking presentations now as well. I’ve learned from the past that many places book up to six months ahead of time, and some authors book them way in advance before they even have their title.

7. When you have finalized the scope of the book, give the info to your graphic designer so they can begin formulating some book cover proofs. You don’t want the book to be finished and edited then wait a month for the book cover design. This can be done while your writing the book. I wrote a draft of my book description and sent some photos I liked to my designer so she could be working on it while I finished the book. It’s important they understand the scope and backdrop of the book as they base everything from fonts to color on your book content.

8. Finalize a rough draft of the book.

9. Send to editors, beta readers (friends, family or people who like to critique books).

10. Make their suggested changes and finalize the manuscript. Again give yourself time as there will be many edits and rewrites.

11. Write the following pages: copyright, acknowledgement, introduction, author page, bibliography if needed (usually non-fiction), appendix if the book contains verbiage that needs defining (mainly non-fiction). In re to the copyright page, it’s okay to use copyright pages from other books as a guide, or I’m sure there’s something online.

12. Make sure the author page has all your marketing (Call to Action) info: email, website, social media, signup link for your newsletter. Write the back book blurb or promo used for the cover jacket if it’s a hard back book.

13. Now send the completed manuscript to what’s called a proof-reader for typos and syntax (punctuation).

14. Do the edits from the proof reader. Read the entire book out loud several times.

15. After you have completed all the edits, it’s time to hand over the final copy to your graphic designer for complete book/font/cover design (used for print and ebook, be sure to get the file when finished in both pdf and jpeg. Some printers may even want CMYK). Remember if you are using Amazon CreateSpace or other printing services, graphic design is available.

16. You will need a website under your name to sell and promote your book as well as your blog. The website should be self-hosted and under your name. is fairly easy to learn and one of the most commonly used.

17. Okay, now your book is finished, and you are ready to send to your printer or ebook formatter. I highly reccommend my contacts for both quality and price if you are doing everything separately. Their contact info is listed on my Self Publishing 101 Links.

18. I’ll be doing another post on all the products and services Amazon provides for the self-publishing author. Again, another decision box for that virtual flow chart. If you want to do both print and ebook, Amazon CreateSpace can do that for you. They are not the publisher, just a service that prints and/or promotes your book. There’s actually a menu of services. You have the option of print on demand for buyers, the option to buy your own books that you can use at book signings or speaking presentations, and also a calculation that will tell you your royalty payments on both print and ebook.

19. You will need to set up an Amazon author account and read several of their tutorials. And then there’s Goodreads. I’ll go into the different marketing programs and options in another post as it will only clutter this post for now.

20. Lulu is another printing/ebook program, along with many others. There are also online posts from people who compare the pros and cons from both Amazon and Lulu. Smashwords is another program that can publish and distribute your ebook to multiple outlets. You can click on the link for more details.

That’s it for another lesson for self-publishing newbie authors. Would love to hear some input. If you have any suggestions or questions please add your comments below.

Happy Writing…

The Power of Storytelling

Ten Primary Points of Speaking Presentations

I’ve noted before I’m a non-fiction writer concentrating more on creative nonfiction. A key part in writing, whether fiction or non fiction, is storytelling. That same skill set can follow through from your writing to your presentations.

I’m fortunate because I’m a photographer and use photography prominently in my writing, throughout my books and part of my speaking events. Therefore I have visuals to assist me in engaging my audience and increasing sales.

Amazingly enough, I’ve been in the position of equipment failures with no visual assistance. It is there that true speaking skills and capitalizing on your surroundings comes into play.

In this blog I will address the power of storytelling, some do’s and don’ts, and working with and without visual presentations.

1. Don’t read from a sheet of paper.  Reading is boring, the brain becomes numb and you lose eye contact with your audience. There needs to be inflection in your voice, drama, excitement, laughter, sadness, all the emotions you see in a good movie or play. Just as your books build a plot so does storytelling.

2. Take note of Q&A sessions. After my talks some people have come up and asked me if I took acting lessons or was an actress at some point in my life. That was a true sign I was doing something right. Use props, a chair, move around, and above all, be animated. Some of the questions also provide clues in the key ingredients of your story.

3. Presentation software. I use Prezi rather than Powerpoint. I find it has a deeper dimension, more artistic and more active. Use some text to break portions of the photo gallery in your Prezi presentations. If you do use Powerpoint be sure to include visuals.

4. Preventing speaking boredom. I like to follow the chapters of my book as it helps establish a momentum. However, to prevent speaker boredom, that is doing the same presentation over and over, pick a different theme with your storytelling. One of my most successful presentations was changing the focus to “Writing With Visuals” in that I gave a story of how each chapter developed, the backstory of my photo shoots and researching the data.

5. Shy in speaking. If you believe you are an introvert or not a speaker, remember this, all writers are storytellers and like writing it requires practice and education. Study other talented storytellers, watch podcasts or TedX talks on storytelling. You could also imagine you are telling the story to a friend or a small group of your fans.

6. Knowing when to promote. As I mentioned before it’s important to build the plot, the story, engaging the audience, developing that “What’s going to come up next?” moment. That’s when their mind is absolutely open and you can feed the core of your message. One of the mistakes authors make is too much promotion, especially in social media. It’s all about building your audience and fan base.

7. Bring passion to the stage. Writing is the loneliest job in the world, living in monkish isolation and taking incredible risks. Writers long for the magic, that spark that fills the page and that ripple effect in reaching others. Telling your story out loud is emotional literacy at its best. Harness the essence of your book, your subject and bring the passion to the stage.

8. Know your audience. As I mentioned in my intro sometimes the worst situations can bring the most creative results. I was invited by a friends-of-the-library group to do a luncheon speaking presentation. It was set in a church lunchroom in a rural Louisiana town that I featured in my book. Looking out the window, across the street was a prominent museum and cemetery that also graced the pages of my book. This was a group of avid readers, proud of their town and perhaps dreams of becoming writers. I kept that in mind while telling my stories. When I learned their TV was 20 years old and not compatible with my computer, I opened the talk with an apology that my Mac computer was being a snob and said, “Please, you want me to hook up with this?!” They laughed and I proceeded to tell them how surreal the day had become pointing out the window to the town’s beautiful landmarks that inspired me. I continued to share my love for their town, and how a wrong turn on a road trip introduced me to their tiny paradise. They were smiling, laughing and clapping on and off with every story told. I sold the most books ever that day speaking in one of the smallest towns.

9. How was the book born? Another story that audience’s generally enjoy is the story in how the book was born, the trials and tribulations, tales of depression to complete euphoria. In my first book, Hallowed Halls of Greater New Orleans, there is a chapter about a self-taught architect that built 30 Roman Catholic churches and schools. He never received any recognition. I briefly mentioned his name in a magazine article and my editor made a mistake when editing and left in a question, “Who is he?” Long story short, a family member called to speak with me and I became their own personal storyteller, but no place to tell the story. After repeated failures to get it published in magazines, I decided to dedicate an entire chapter to this architect and his family. It took nearly 10 years. The book is now owned by some prominent American Bishops, Cardinals in the Vatican, and Pope Francis himself. When I told this story to that small group, there was a unified gasp and a round of applause. I wasn’t grandstanding, I was just sharing a heartfelt story.

10. Heartfelt Stories. Heart, speaking from your heart in both writing and speaking presentations is probably one of the hardest and most gratifying. In the TEDxDrigo video listed below, Susan Conley speaks from her heart and invites others to do the same. From her own personal despair to championing her dreams, she is a master in the art of storytelling and reaching others. She begins with her childhood and how her incessant daydreaming helped her write. As a teenager it was discovering the lyrics of music and their poetic tales of woe and celebrations, and the story continues into adulthood and journaling the dark side of post-cancer blues. She builds her story by examining the power of a story, the inner life, the hope, fear and passion, creating connectivity at the simplest level.

Perhaps the perfect ending to this storytelling lesson is to watch this emotional journey of telling the story.





Self Publishing 101 links

Many first time authors seeking to get published have often asked where to begin. As I continue to post blogs on this subject, I thought it wise to post a page of just links. This will help you get started on the education process. Like any endeavor, there’s a learning curve and the internet and author family has lots to share.

Listed below are some of my favorite links.

Links and resources:

Resources in writing, self-publishing, marketing and entrepreneurial tasks

Joanna Penn also has several books available including How to Market a Book, which I have read, Public Speaking, Business for Authors, and Career Change. Tutorials: How to Publish a Book 101, 7 Worst Mistakes Indie Authors and How to Fix Them. 

Joanna Penn,

Video book trailers


Indie Editor, Todd Barselow

Todd’s Indie press is Auspicious Apparatus Press, he accepts manuscript submissions from all over the world,


On Demand Print options

Amazon Create Space,

Lulu self-publishing,

Graphic Designer

Myra Beckman
creative director
Beckman Design

Bulk Print

Four Colour Print Group

Bekah Rhoads

Four Colour Print Group

Louisville, KY 40206

Phone: 502-640-5552


Contact to transfer your word document to a EPUB format (many eBook stores), MOBI/KF8 format (for Amazon), and a special EPUB for Smashwords.

Paul Salvette

Managing Director

BB eBooks


Creating Books through blogs

Nina Amir


Highly recommend local small press for first book. In Louisiana, River Road Press is a good choice.

Scott Campbell, Publisher

River Road Press LLC

Top Ten Signs You’re a Writer

With the advent of social media and the virtual community, I have been approached several times on what is the definition of a writer. Or more adeptly put the question, “Read this, am I a worthy writer?”

A sensible question, exactly what determines your destiny as a writer? We certainly don’t begin writing as a toddler, and although there are other artistic endeavors that do show an early propensity of talent such as art, music, dancing or even singing, writing is not one of them.

So what are the indications that you are a good writer?

Here’s my list, and please make note, they are not all inclusive. I have seen complete opposite personalities in famous writers. Some may only own one of what I consider the qualifications of a talented writer.

1. You are a storyteller, most likely were born that way, and the story often grows as it’s repeated.

2. You are blessed/cursed with a mind that never stops. Something as simple as a relaxing shower can soon morph into a bloodbath of drama as your body relaxes and your mind takes control.

3. You have trouble sleeping. The characters or writing won’t stop, it’s as if you have multiple personalities.

4. You have a notepad on your night stand and take notes after waking from vivid dreams.

5. Driving is never a dull moment as the scenery begins to tell a story. Before you know it, your mind is reciting the prose, setting the scene in words.

6. You are constantly reinventing descriptive nouns and action verbs and you have a list of descriptive nouns and action verbs.

7. When out in public every sound, smell and casual conversation conjures a story.

8. While watching movies or television, you listen to the dialog more intently. You become more aware of the screenwriters than special effects.

9. You love to read and feel lost without a stack of books haunting you on the night stand, bookcase, office floor, etc.

10. You get so lost in the zone of writing, you forget to eat. Or you love to eat while lost in the zone of writing. Eating and drinking help fuel the writing.

Self-publishing tips

Hello my fellow aspiring authors,

First let me give you a quick background. I’m a freelance writer/author/photographer, and this is my second career after I freed myself from the bondage of corporate Hell. I returned to college when my children were in high school and finished my degree from Tulane University in New Orleans with a BA in Media Arts. That was 2003, and now 12 years later I have a good 1,000 articles published with twice as many photographs gracing the pages of local, regional and national pubs.

Two years ago when the magazine market began to shrink I turned to books releasing my first book Hallowed Halls of New Orleans: Churches, Cathedrals and Sanctuaries in 2013. It was published by History Press, an appropriate publishing house for a book that was born from a historic church column and ten years of research and photographs. However, my corporate career taught me I should only dedicate my resources to projects that yield profit. Working with a publishing house does have some benefits but marketing and sales isn’t one of them. I had to resolve that part of the equation on my own.

That brings me to my reason for this new series of blog posts. On January 8 2014, I sat teary eyed in the pews of Trinity Episcopal Church on Jackson Avenue in New Orleans. My mentor, Mary Fitzpatrick, a renowned preservationist, astute cultural activist, and editor of Preservation in Print magazine, died suddenly at the age of 64 on New Years Eve 2013 while visiting family in Hendersonville, NC. I was devastated!

Mary saw a budding writer in me, and in my senior year at Tulane she published my first article in the December 2002 issue of Preservation in Print. She continued to support me and sing my praises over the next decade. It was there studying the stained glass windows in a church filled with faithful mourners, my doubts in publishing were answered. Yes Mary’s spirit, karma, whatever it was, reached to me, in an astounding, “What are you waiting for?”

In October 2014 I published my first book, Louisiana’s Sacred Places: Churches, Cemeteries and Voodoo dedicated to the memory of Mary Fitzpatrick. It was both a nightmare and a dream come true. My book’s acknowledgement shares the laborious journey, from computer and internet crashes to firing my initial printer, I learned from my mistakes. I still have much more to learn, but like anything else, your knowledge grows with experience and in this case, book sales. The more books you sell, the more followers you gain, and the more your marketing strategy changes. Add to that the growing number of promotional tools, and it can be overwhelming.

This blog will be the beginning of a series of self-publishing tips dedicated to the first-time publisher, and with time I will transition to more advanced posts as I progress in this evolving craft of publishing.


Start educating yourself, reading books, following newsletters, signing up for free webcasts. Will your book be fiction or non-fiction. In determining your subject matter research the existing market. Go to the big box stores, what are on the shelves of your genre. Remember your book needs to be unique with a strong marketing base. Develop a timeline of your writing, both short and long range including an estimated publishing date. Document it in your planner or whatever you use to stay on track.


Will it be print, eBook or both? There are several options on print including the less costly On Demand Print used by Amazon Create Space and many other self-publishing websites. Bulk print gives you the opportunity to earn a higher royalty but there’s warehousing the books and moving the books to and from marketing events. Highly recommend not printing over 1,000 books when you are a first-time author. Some writers believe in publishing eBooks first earning enough money to print the books in bulk.

To get you started, I’ve listed some links below that I follow as valued resources in writing, self-publishing, marketing and entrepreneurial tasks.

I also provide a full speaking presentation designed for first time authors and/or self publishers in an online format. Great resource for conferences, book clubs, writing groups, libraries or book stores. Email me for more information or contact me via Facebook, 

Joanna Penn,

Joanna Penn also has several books available including How to Market a Book, which I have read, Public Speaking, Business for Authors, and Career Change. Tutorials: How to Publish a Book 101, 7 Worst Mistakes Indie Authors Make and How to Fix Them, Self-publishing checklist for new authors

Creating Books through blogs

Nina Amir

I’ll be back next week with another lesson in self-publishing. Meanwhile check out my photo galleries of both books and book descriptions. My books are available through Amazon with signed copies offered in sales direct from my website.

Happy Writing…