Self-Publishing Checklist: 12 Steps to Success

Self-PublishingYou’ve put in the hours. You’ve bled and cried. You’ve driven yourself crazy trying to iron out that nasty plot hole. And now you’ve done it – you’ve finished your manuscript! Huzzah! Congratulations!

But now what? If you want to get your work out there and are considering self-publishing, you’ll want to make sure you cover the basics before attempting to put your words out there for the world to read.

I published my first ebook back in April 2014 – nearly a year ago. And now, with four more books slated for release this year, I’ve put together a checklist to help myself stay on track and would like to share them with you to aid you in your own self-publishing adventure!

Note: This is meant to be a very basic checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything. But not to fear! I’ll be posting more about these checkpoints in detail over the next few months.

 

Self-Publishing Checklist: 12 Steps to Success

  • Beta-Readers, Editors, Proofreaders
    • Have you had a second (or third or fourth) set of eyes look at your manuscript?
  • Revisions
    • Have you edited, revised, and polished your work?
  • Launch Date
    • Have you selected/announced a launch date?
  • Cover
    • Do you have a professional-looking cover for your manuscript? Is it eye-catching? Does it look good as a thumbnail (this is how it will show up on most websites!)? Have you done a cover-reveal?
  • Print vs. eBook
    • Are you producing this book as an eBook? Are you doing Print on Demand (PoD)? Find the vendors/sites you want to sell through and adhere to their guidelines (formatting, marketing, ISBNs, etc.).
  • Formatting
    • Has your book (whether print or eBook) been formatted to the appropriate formats for your vendors (or wherever you’re selling?).
  • Uploading
    • Give yourself a couple extra days to upload your book with to your vendors’ sites so that you don’t miss your release date.
  • Price
    • Have you selected an appropriate/competitive price for your book?
  • Blurb/Product Description
    • Have you written a stellar (and accurate) blurb to put on the back of your book or on your book’s page?
  • Selecting Key Terms
    • Have you selected succinct categories and key-terms for your book on your vendors’ websites?
  • Marketing Platforms
    • Where are you marketing your book? Follow any guidelines for those platforms.
  • Review Copies
    • Have you sent complimentary copies of your book to any reviewers you have lined up?

 

I hope this checklist helps you get a good handle on your self-publishing journey. Keep an eye out for more posts on self-publishing in the coming months!

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Have any steps that you find crucial to the self-publishing process? Have something you think should be added to the checklist? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments below!

Co-Founder Confession: Why Do I Write? – Cristina R. Guarino

A while back, our coWhy Do I Write-founder Skye Fairwin asked a good question: Why do you write?  After seeing your awesome answers, we only thought it fair that we answer that same, very personal, question. Each month one of us from the Sprint Shack team will answer that burning question: Why do I write? Last month’s answer came from Taylor Eaton – look for Skye Fairwin’s answer in March! But first, Cristina R. Guarino is chiming in.

I can always count on my co-founders to ask the tough questions. When the ladies suggested we all contribute to the topic on why we write last month, I was stumped. I’ve thought about it just about every day until now, sitting at my writing desk, and I’m still scratching my head. Why do I write? How can I come up with something that’s not the embodiment of good writing’s most crippling plague—the cliché?

At the moment, a black binder sits on my desk to my right, a small spiral notebook and a set of color-coded post-its atop it. It’s the binder housing my many, many scattered notes for my current fantasy WIP—the story that’s taken me three years thus far and still hasn’t come to a conclusion. I organized and color-coded my various scraps and outlines last night in preparation for my upcoming #10KWritAThon, in which I hope to start tackling the brunt of the problem with the story. In addition, I have a short story desperately needing revisions tucked away in the dark corners of my “Writing” desktop folder, a YA novel from NaNoWriMo that needs reworking, and a bunch of half-formed ideas awaiting completion.

Why have I struggled so hard through these projects? The answer has always been a source of worry for me: simply, I’m often afraid of writing. I talk myself out of it. I run from it. And what’s a writer that doesn’t write? Many would argue: not a writer at all.

But the truth of it is, I want to write. I love writing. When I stop over-thinking it, I guess it comes down to something as simple as story. I love stories. I love reading them, listening to them, seeing them unfold. Most of all, I love creating them.

I think creation is a part of all of us; from the time we’re able to stand and walk and talk, we create stories. We embark on epic adventures with our toys. Our pudgy toddler fingers bring characters and scenery to life with our doodles, even if they just look like haphazard scribbling to the adult eye. But only a few of us go on to build off that into a hobby, a passion, a dream, a way of life. And no matter how many excuses I can find about lack of time in my day-to-day life, the fact is, I still always come back to writing in my most emotional moments: from the messy crayon “books” I punched together with a stapler and unsteady hands in elementary school, to the fanfiction that ignited my love for the craft, to the complex and sometimes mind-boggling projects I’m still trying to sort through now.

I may not have it all figured out yet, but I’m a writer, and I write because I don’t know how to live without stories. I never have. And I hope I never have to learn how.

Guest Post: Amy Good – “Story Bandit:” Stealing Your Writer’s Block With Random Prompts & Dares!

Guest Post TemplateNo two writers work the same way. Some painstakingly labor over each word; others simply open a vein and bleed words onto the page. Some construct a catchy beginning and write on the fly from there; others write their endings first and work their way back. Some go through long bouts of writer’s block; others never take a break from writing, even for a day.

But all the writers I’ve met share one thing: we all want writing to be fun. Whether we consider writing a hobby, a part-time job, or a full-time profession, we want to enjoy ourselves.

For me personally, I relish when writing works like puzzle-solving. I delight in working my way towards a particular ending, or in connecting disparate pieces to make a story come together. Like most other writers, I detest it when the words don’t flow. And when taking a shower or a walk just won’t cut it, I turn to other methods to trick the words into flowing.

Writing dares are a favorite (and fun) trick of mine, so much so that I actually co-created a Twitter account and Windows app devoted to them: Story Bandit. Although the app has limitations in the kinds of prompts it can give users, the Twitter account affords me a wide latitude to create a variety of challenges, which my co-creator tweets out at random so that I can amuse myself by trying them out as well. The dares may include a word limit, a list of random words to incorporate into a poem or story, a setting or conversation to integrate into a story, or an opening or ending line. And so far, the dares are really catching on!

Some writers who take on @StoryBandit’s dares find the challenge useful in combatting their writer’s block:

A few writers like that they’re pushed outside of their normal comfort zones:

Some are inspired by the dares to create poems or stories they otherwise wouldn’t have written:

And many of the writers simply have fun and enjoy the challenge:

I use writing dares for all of these reasons and more. Not only do they add inspiration, fun and challenge to my regular writing routine, but they can also be finished in a short writing sprint, usually in anywhere from ten to thirty minutes. So if you’re looking to add a new dimension to your own writing routine, why not give writing dares and @StoryBandit a try!

Amy Good

Amy Good is a U.S. writer in Dublin and the author of Rooted. She is the editor of RewritingMarySue.com, a website dedicated to highlighting compelling and unabridged female characters in fiction. She also manages @StoryBandit, a Twitter-based writing prompt generator. You can find out more about her at Amicgood.com and follow her on her personal Twitter account.

Get Ready—We’re Hosting a #10KWritAThon!

10k
Just a little over a year ago, the awesome Nicky Stephens wrote a guest post for us on her latest word sprinting feat, the #10KWritAThon. The #10KWritAThon, as the name suggests, is a writing marathon and word sprinting event on Twitter in which the goal is to write 10,000 words over the course of a day. Since then, writers across Twitter have picked up on the challenge, hosting some of their own and gathering fellow word sprinting fiends to partake with them (we hear Get Wordies is going to be hosting a few for Camp NaNoWriMo and regular NaNoWriMo this year, and you can find the schedule here).

On Sunday, March 1st, we’re kicking the month off with a #10KWritAThon of our own! Join us for a day of word sprinting and crank out your own 10,000 words, or write what you can. We’ll have a bunch of goodies to inspire and motivate you, including writing prompts, competitive wordscrims, and maybe even some cute pictures of baby animals as rewards for your word sprinting prowess.

We’ll develop a full schedule as the date draws closer and will update this post with information, so check back soon! Full details will also be posted to our Upcoming Sprints page. To prepare, check out our own Skye Fairwin’s article on InfoBarrel, How To: Write 10,000 Words In A Day!

Happy writing, and see you March 1st!

Writing for Wellness: The Benefits of Journaling

Writing for Wellness: The Benefits of Journaling
Mazie Bishop

One of the hardest parts of being a writer is that our minds are constantly running around in other worlds or scenarios. Or looking for information and references. Even when we are sleeping or relaxing our minds don’t get to rest, and sometimes a tired mind can be even worse than an exhausted body or a sleepy writing hand.

Imagine there was a way to clear your head from everything. Imagine a place for you to put every single thought down without the risk of forgetting it. Imagine a place that could help you actually relax and allow for you mind to heal! A place called: Your Journal.

I know the word can be daunting sometimes, but your journal is not here to stress you out. It knows you’re a busy human being, and it is there for the good days, and the bad days. Your journal can work for you if you know how to use it. So today, we are going to talk about the benefits of journaling, as well as the different types of journals you can keep, and some things that are working for me on my journal journey.

Benefits of Keeping a Journal:

  1. Stress Reduction
    Keeping a journal can really help with getting everything out of your head and onto the paper, giving your brain freedom to de-stress. It can also help with a lot of other things, like brainstorming, idea collecting, problem solving and decision making. Use your journal for whatever you need it for! There are no rules, just as long as it helps you.
  2. Personal Growth and Healing
    Journals are a great way to track progress in yourself. A lot of writers keep planners to track their writing goals and progress, but a journal can be just as helpful. Also, sometimes bad things happen in life, and it’s difficult to put those things aside when you’re writing, but a journal is the perfect place to work things out and work through your negative feelings.
  3. Life Story
    Documentation is important, especially when you’re a writer. Some of the best writers only notice after it’s too late to remember all the details that they couldn’t tell their story anymore. Keeping a journal of memories and life events can help people learn about you, if there comes a time you can’t teach them. I have also read wonderful stories of people who kept journals from early in life (including one who developed Alzheimer’s) and, when they were older, they were able to sit down and recall their younger years.
  4. Quick, Simple and Easy
    Journaling is the simplest way of writing, because there are no rules! It can be on a piece of paper, a napkin, on the computer. It can be personal, lock and key, hidden under your mattress, or it can be a blog, where your viewers follow along with you. No rules, just write!
  5. Enhances Creativity
    A journal also proves to be a great place to spill creative ideas that don’t fit into any of your current projects. Oh, that character doesn’t fit in your story? That’s 100% fine—because he fits in your journal!

 Along with all of these benefits and probably hundreds more, there are all kinds of journals and endless possibilities! If you can think of it, you better believe there is a way to journal about it, so here is a list of different types of journals you can keep:

Popular Journals to Keep:

  1. Quick Journal
    This can be a journal that you come back to once a day (Or whenever you’d like) and just write one sentence that explains your day, or something particularly good that happened to you. Quick, Simple, and to the point!
  2. Travel Journal
    Wherever you go, whether it is down the street or across the country, write about your adventures!
  3. Dream Journal
    You know those dreams that wake you up at night, the dreams that linger when the morning comes, the ones you remember even years later? The second you wake up, write them down. Did you know that over the age of 10, we dream 4-6 times each night and we forget 95%-99% of our dreams? Recording them is great for looking back on!
  4. Routine Journal
    This is the normal journal or diary, the one you bring everywhere, or the one you leave in one place a visit daily and write everything in your mind down, a life record.
  5. Gratitude Journal
    A journal where you keep track of all of the things you are grateful for. This is a great journal to keep because even on your bad days, making yourself find a good point of every day or situation is important when keeping a positive mindset.
  6. Recovery Journal
    This is a journal for exploring yourself during recovery. The journal acts as a place for you to spill your feelings but also for you to ask yourself questions, to seek answers. This is a place for you to track progress and make

 I have tried most of these different types of journals, but only two have worked for me and my lifestyle. As a busy student and writer I don’t have time to adapt to new systems as often as I’d sometimes like to. I use the gratitude journal on a daily basis; sometimes I just write a sentence, and other days I write a whole entry. The other journal I use is a routine journal. I don’t take my book everywhere because I want it to be a stationary (no pun intended) moment in which I write whenever I can. It’s a book that never leaves my room, and even in the craziest of times, it’s the only thing that never changes.

So go grab a notebook, a napkin or open a new word document and figure out what you want to write about, and get journaling. Get writing for wellness!
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Mazie-BishopMazie Bishop is a fiery 22 year-old writer and journalism student from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. She is a big dreamer who hopes to be writing with the big guys some day and cannot wait for her career to start! Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

Stay Inspired: How to Maintain a Writing Mindset

Stay InspiredIt can be hard to stay motivated to write day in and day out. Aside from the demands life makes on our time, there are obstacles like writer’s block or self-doubt or – worst of all – obscurity. It’s impressive that any author ever has the mental strength to get anything done.

But many authors get a lot of writing done. A LOT do, in fact. Tons of writers produce large quantities of work every year (which, coincidentally, I think may be the secret to writing success…but that’s for another post).

So what’s the secret? How do you stay focused? How do you produce multiple pieces a year? Here’s my answer: find a way to maintain a writing mindset at all times. Albeit, it’s easier said than done. So here are some tips to help foster a lifestyle that will keep you writing.

 Read with a critical eye. Sure, sometimes it’s nice to just lose yourself in a book. Book every now and then, delve into a book with the intent to examine it. See what you like and what you don’t like. Think about how you can apply some techniques to your own writing. Or what you want to avoid. Being conscious of what other authors have put out into the world means you’ll be conscious of what you write – and it’ll make you WANT to write.

Socialize… with other writers. Find a writing group in your area – or a writing buddy. Or take to Twitter, Facebook, or the dozens of websites out there that allow you to connect with fellow wordsmiths. Talking shop and seeing what others are doing will inspire you to keep the words coming.

Socialize some more… with your readers. If you have readers – whether it’s 5 or 5,000, take some time to interact. Social media, your own website, and email are great ways to stay in touch with your readers. You’ll find that the more you talk to people who love what you’re writing, the more you’ll want to write great stuff for them.

Talk about writing. A lot. To your writing friends, your readers, your family. Anyone who will listen. Talk about something you are writing – or something you want to write. Talk about why you write, or what you’ve learned from writing. Talk about it when you can. More often than not, you’ll start to hear some pretty good ideas come out of your mouth. And then you can move those to paper.

Study up. Read books about the craft of writing. Or marketing or publishing. Or listen to podcasts on the same subject. Let other people get you excited about the process. Let their ideas spark your own. Or re-purpose their brilliant ideas (DO NOT plagiarize or steal – just let yourself be inspired). Enthusiasm is contagious, so go out and catch it.

Take a walk down memory lane. Revisit some of your greatest hits – your favorite past pieces. Or pick up a project you never finished and start breathing more life into it. Remind yourself how far you’ve come with your writing. And then set your sites on where you want to go.

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So go on. Get out there are find ways to keep yourself inspired. And, as always, keep writing!

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Got any suggestions on how to stay in the writing mindset? Share your knowledge in the comments below!

Revive Your Writing Resolutions with S.M.A.R.T. Goals!

UntitledIt’s that infamous time of year: the end of January and, for many, the well-intentioned New Year’s Resolutions. Those of you who work out may notice that your gym is starting to empty out again as resolutioners lose their resolve, for example. Those who promised themselves a break from a bad habit like smoking may be falling back into their old routines. And, where writers like ourselves are involved, the countless resolutions made to write, edit, and/or publish our words are beginning to feel a bit ambitious.

But, thankfully, there’s one solid way to fix that lack of motivation and get you back on track (besides, of course, partaking in regular word sprints)! By making what are called “S.M.A.R.T. Goals”—or goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely—all of us can make those resolutions a habit and not only achieve our goals, but feel productive and successful in the process.

So how does a goal qualify as a S.M.A.R.T. Goal? Take your resolutions and hold them up to this standard to see if they’re up to par.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals are…

Specific

Any resolution that’s too broad or vague is sure to fall short of your expectations—often because you aren’t entirely sure what your expectations are. In order to achieve the next step, which is to make the goal measurable, you first have to have a goal in place that’s able to be measured. Here are some examples.

Vague goal: “Write more in 2015”
Specific goal: “Write a minimum of 200,000 words in 2015”

Measurable

This is where it’s helpful to create goals that can be broken down into smaller progressive segments, such as monthly or weekly tasks. For a goal to be measurable, we have to be able to pop in at a checkpoint and assess our progress without great effort or backtracking. If you’re trying to write more, for example, the above 200k goal can easily be broken down into a monthly word count target of approximately 16,667.

Here are two more examples:

Unmeasurable goal: Get a short story published (a vague and unmeasurable goal I made the mistake of making, myself, last year!)

Measurable goal: Dedicate 1/3 of the year each to writing, editing, and submitting a short story

Attainable & Realistic

The lines are blurred between these two, but essentially, your goals should be fathomable. It’s easy to look at a promisingly full 12 months an entire year in advance and make wild promises to ourselves—and there are unattainable and unrealistic goals that come much more disguised as the opposite than, say, determining that you’re going to be the next J.K. Rowling by 2016.

Unrealistic/unattainable goal: Write, edit, and (traditionally) publish your debut novel in one year

  • (Author’s Note: It can and has happened, I’m sure, but my guess is very rarely. This is not to dissuade anyone from achieving their goal of publication, but just to encourage you to take a step back and understand that traditional publication can often be a long and unpredictable process that you don’t always have complete control over).

Realistic/Attainable goal: Finish draft 1 of your novel by X date/month, send to beta readers by X date/month, and pursue publishing endeavors by X date/month (remember, you still have to keep it measurable).

Timely

Of course, the whole point of a New Year’s Resolution is that it can be completed and celebrated by the next year. All of the preceding examples have shown the difference between timely and untimely goals inherently by their being S.M.A.R.T. Goals, but here are two more if you need them:

Untimely goal: Write a collection of short stories

Timely goal: Write and edit one short story per week until December; take the month of December to comb through stories and decide what will be included in the collection and make any further edits

And that’s the basis of a S.M.A.R.T. Goal! Do your goals meet all the criteria? Or do they need to be revamped? Let us know, and—if you’re comfortable sharing your ambitions for the rest of the year—give us an idea of how you’re improving your resolutions!