Unborn Authors

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Once I had a few books out, I realized how easy it is to publish (well, self-publish). I began speaking about it, advising, and helping out in writer’s groups. So many people want to write and I wanted to help!

Then I realized that many people say they want to publish books (or say they do), but the books rarely materialize. It’s frustrating to watch talent and enthusiasm never pay off, even when there are moments people do get their book out. Somehow the successes don’t reduce the pain of seeing the failures.

My fellow authors and I commiserate about this. There’s a pain that comes with seeing people like us not realize what we have. There’s an unpleasant mix of empathy, disbelief, and frustration that tugs at us.

We share stories about it, trying to understand how we might help. The person who sees writing as a path to wealth but doesn’t understand how writing usually pays the bills. The author who can’t push the button. The writer who can’t start, and the other who can’t finish.

We talk about them but rarely do we find solutions. The pain stays with us because these authors are us, and there are things to tell. You can sense that book waiting to be born in someone.

I’ve realized it’s not the book being born that’s the problem. The problem is the person hasn’t yet been born as an author.

Writing is not just wordsmithing or plotting or self-publishing. It’s a lifestyle and the commitment and desire to get your work out. You don’t become an author by publishing; you become an author by becoming the kind of person who can get a book out.


This may mean writing better, learning software, taking classes, or going to therapy for issues. It means honing your art and moving forward. In many cases, it means getting the book out even if it’s bad so you can write the next one. Author is a verb way more than it is a noun.

So many unrealized authors haven’t gone all the way being authors. Stuck daydreaming or stuck afraid to push the button and publish, many are still stuck. They’re not born yet.

Maybe this is what we need far more than another grammar guide or plotting guide – advice on being an author as a person. I hope this helps my fellow published authors help others. It will certainly guide my future advice.

Who do you need to be in order to become an author?

Steven Savage

Way With Worlds Update 4-4-2016!

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, www.SeventhSanctum.com, and Steve’s Tumblr)

Been awhile since a Way With Worlds Update!  So let’s find out where we are on my essays-rewritten-and-now-a-book on worldbuilding.

First, there’s a web page for the first book that gives you some idea of what I’m up to.  You can also see the sample cover art – and you’re going to love the final cover!

I also got the book back from my editor.  My editor is a “word of God type editor” – when it’s edited it’s done.  So I spent an entire day going through her edits for the first book.  After about ten hours of work, I have a book that is mostly ready for publication.  One more read through and it’s ready for publishing (which itself is going to take a few months).

This brings up a really good lessons – there are several kinds of editors and you have to know how to work with them.  Some are like a friendly guide with advice.  Others are the Word Of God.  Yet others are instructional.  Each is different and you have to figure which works for you, your works, and your goals.

For instance, these books, though being creative and chatty are instructional.  I needed a Word Of God editor on them.

On the other hand, some of my more intimate career books need a lighter touch as an editor.  They’re chatty and friendly.

My upcoming Sailor Moon book has yet a different editor, a fansourced editor with an academic background and a fandom background, which seems perfect.

Now there’s also been a few schedule changes, so let’s recap!

  • The First Book is out end of July as planned.
  • The Second Book is out the end of October.  It was originally August, but between the editor’s needs, my schedule, and the fact it’s damn stupid to put a sequel out a month later.
  • After that is still a special surprise.  Stay tuned.

I think you folks are going to love the books.  It’s really my near-final word on Worldbuilding, and there’s a wealth of worldbuilding advice.

– Steve

How I Write #7: The Publishing

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, www.SeventhSanctum.com, and Steve’s Tumblr)

Well back to discussing how I write, and we’re to the end – the publishing part. Simple, right? Not really.

Publishing could almost be multiple posts but I don’t want to bore people in the wrong way. So before I cover the parts, lets cut to the point here – publishing your book after the writing, after the editing, is something not everyone can do on your own. You’re going to need help somewhere unless you’ve got the right experience.

Even after plenty of practice, I don’t have all the skillsets.

The Cover

About half my covers are done by other people. This is because, beyond my basic business books, the style I’m capable of (Genially Boring Professional) doesn’t work. In fact, I’m probably going to do enhanced editions of some books I have done covers for at some point. Because yeah, I could do better, and I’m sure you can think of which ones.

So first, I ask if I can do a cover on my own, in my style.

Let’s say the answer is yes. This is almost inevitably the case for my smaller business books and ebooks. In this case, I’ve got some basic approaches to covers I’ve used over the years that are pretty successful. In fact I grab the latest cover and mostly repurpose it for my next book.

In some cases I’ll want art. I try to avoid public domain and any art where the ownership is at all a problem, out of ethics and a desire not to have issues. For new art I got to www.canstockphoto.com which has great deals.  I’ve seen other self-publishers use it, which both speaks to its stock, and warns you to make sure you search Amazon for any similar covers.

Once it’s done I take the cover and run it by some friends and writer’s groups and the like, see what people think, modify it, and done. Again this is often ebooks.

Now if the cover needs to be custom art . . .

In this case I tap the artists I know. Usually that means Richelle Rueda as of late, and she, like any, is a person I fan-sourced – meeting people via fandom connections. Meeting someone that way lets you see them in a more artistic, playful, personal element and you get a better feel for who they are and what they do.  And yes, consider that a reference for Richelle.

I always pay artists.  Exposure is bullshit payment in many cases, so hand them cash or trade in kind unless they offer.  Art takes a long time.

I actually have the skills to format the cover, do the back, etc.  You can probably develop those skills, but don’t be afraid to outsource that as well.  Like, say, to the artist you just paid . . .

Formatting The Book

Formatting the book for publishing is something I do on my own – because it saves time, because it’s a good skill to have.  I learned formatting the hard way – by doing it and having to waste money on failed prints and times on failed e-books.  After a few tries I’m not only better, but it’s one more thing I can do myself

Formatting for me has two paths.

First is general formatting. I go through and make sure that the titles are properly done, that the bullet points are in place, and that the page breaks are right. This is stuff that’s relevant to doing the book right no matter what the format. Its surprising how many mistakes can get made – once I had inconsistent titling capitalization on a 300 page book – and I didn’t find that until the printed drafts.  I often roll this formatting into read-throughts.

Now it gets interesting. When I’m very (very) sure the book is in good shape I split it into print and ebook (if there’s both)

First is a document formatted for print. This can be pretty challenging as I have to format it so pages break, pages face the proper sides, paragraphs split (or don’t split), and so on. It’s amazing how having to make a document physical affects how you perceive it. Also if you don’t get this right you spend a lot of time reprinting the damn book.

Secondly is a document formatted for e-publishing. I use Jutoh, which is good for all formats – but recently I’ve gone Kindle exclusive. Kindle kinda won the e-pub war and I surrendered, but I still use Jutoh because it’s a damn good tool.

Formatting an electronic document is way different because you face:

  • Formatting that may change on device.
  • Conversion issues (often bullet points) to e-book format.
  • Flow issues.
  • Getting your chosen tool to generate the damn Table of Contents.

I split the books, and then edit one at a time – but I keep them both available because, while formatting, I often find errors. I then correct it in both documents and often the original documents, because I’m anal retentive as hell.

It used to be worse when I did Kindle, ePub, and PDF as I’d have to keep one doc for physical, one doc that became Kindle and ePub, and one for PDF. It was bad enough I think I repressed it.

So the formatting phase becomes pretty extensive as I basically split the books, then format the physical (and add changes to the other doc), then format the electronic document – and sometimes feed changes back to the previous. It turns into a nasty little oroborous of problems at times.

Finally, I give the physical doc a good look through. Then it’s on to pre-publishing this stuff . . .

Prepublishing This Stuff

I go through CreateSpace for physical books now, and Create Space, much like Lulu, lets you set up a book and publish it – without making it available. You can send yourself a copy for approval. Which, I assure you, you’ll want.

While I wait on that to get delivered, I generate the electronic copy of the book. This is where it gets complex again. See people read ebooks on various devices, so I usually generate it then check it on:

  • My computer.
  • My tablet.
  • My phone.
  • Anyone randomly in the house.

You have to consider use cases for your ebook to make sure it works for your audience – and putting it on various devices often reveals problems. Bad formatting, poor flow, an extra space, all become apparent. It’s a good test to make the document readable (and you may find additional errors).

Then at some point the book arrives, and I go through that. With a pen. I mark every page with an error, folding the page down, and underlining what’s wrong. I usually go through the entire book – then fix it in the publishing document, and at ties the e-book document. Sometimes there’s even issues with the cover you have to fix.

Then it’s running both over again, ordering another copy of the print book, and regenerating the eBooks. I’ve had to do the print book over four times at some point (note, that is due to rushing formatting so half that was my own damn fault).

Once it’s good enough (meaning I can make a pass through both without seeing an error or at least one I care about by that time), it’s a go. I upload the eBooks and I give confirmation the physical book is OK.

I’m published.

By the way, by now the feeling isn’t so much triumph as relief.

Looking Back

Publishing is often my least favorite part of doing a book. OK it is my least favorite part. This is why I try to get good formatting done early (I use templates for my books), finish covers, and check carefully. Once you get into this publishing cycle of actually getting the book out it can feel like a hideous grind.

It is a hideous grind, who am I kidding.

At this point I’d take a break, but there’s usually marketing to be done. I’m not going to write on that for awhile as I kind of am not great at that. Perhaps when I get further i’ll talk about it

But there you go, how I write. I hope it helps.

. . . I kinda feel exhausted at this point.

  • Steve