Complete Guide Self-Publishing

The Secrets of Good Writing



“The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what—those are the thousand one adulterations that weaken the strength of a sentence.” — William Zinsser, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

If I could write a book about writing that boils down to a single point, that point would be SIMPLIFY. Many writers have a tendency to overcomplicate their writing for one of three reasons:

  1. They want to sound erudite, smart, articulate.
  2. They don’t understand what they are writing about.
  3. They’ve never learned to write a simple sentence.

As an editor, I am sometimes faced with whole paragraphs full of words that say nothing, or if they do say something, I have no idea what is it. The purpose of writing is to convey a thought, an idea, or a message. That is not a simple matter. If the reader cannot translate what you have written into something that makes sense to him, you have not achieved your purpose.

Communication in any form is fraught with ways to fail. Consider this: As the sender of the message, you know exactly what you want to communicate. So you say it or write it and assume that the receiver understands your meaning. Maybe she does, but maybe she doesn’t. Unless she checks with you by asking, “Is this what you meant?” she will assume her interpretation is correct. If it is, you’re off to a good start. If it isn’t, you’ll have to restate it. But if she never checks her understanding, neither of you will know that your communication has gone awry.

Unless you are instant messaging (IM), you won’t get that that kind of feedback on your writing. You’ll just send out the message and hope that the reader “gets it.” The simpler and less cluttered your language, the more likely it is that it will be understood. The more extraneous words you throw in, the greater the possibility that the reader will become tangled up in your verbiage. What’s worse is that you may never know.

This is hardly a new problem, but for writers it is a serious one. If you adhere to the rule that every writer needs an editor, someone else may catch your convoluted wording, but it is really your job to turn over to an editor a clear, well-written manuscript. Believe me, it will still have to be polished, but at least you will have done your job as a writer.


Bobbi Linkemer is a writing coach, ghostwriter, and editor, as well as the author of eighteen books, six of which are on writing. Her passion is helping writers at all levels convey their messages through books. She has launched a successful online course and guided twenty-four published authors through the steps of writing, publishing, and promoting their nonfiction books. Bobbi can be reached at,, or 314-968-8661. 

Guidelines for Creating That Award-Winning Book Title

One of the best ways to motivate someone to pick up your book and look at it, is to create a dynamic and eye-catching book title on the cover. Wouldn't it be great if there were some absolute rules or proven formulas you could follow that would enable you to create that award-winning book title? But alas, there are none.

However, the following guidelines may help you create a book title that can really work for your book.

  1. It's best to have a clear title over a catchy one. And ideally, your title should start with the two or three most relevant words, so that when it shows up in a database, a searcher can immediately catch your drift.
  2. When considering your title, look at the power of numbers. Things like: 5 Ways to..., 21 Secrets for..., 50 Money Making Tip... Interestingly, studies show odd numbers work best.
  3. Another approach is to identify the three biggest problems your book solves. These can help answer a potential reader's questions of "What's in it for me?" or "Why should I care."
  4. Sometimes a play on words can have a dramatic effect. The subtitle of Jim Soules book about finding your perfect mate included A Guide for Twogetherness.
  5. Looking at magazine titles can also stimulate ideas. Sometimes by just substituting one word, you can produce a grabber title.

Just as there are guidelines for good titles, there are also some negative you should avoid. Stay away from titles that are trite, such as All That Glitters Is Not Gold or To Be or Not To Be. Profane or controversial titles can spell disaster. And don't choose a title or subtitle that can give misleading signals - such as "This book isn't what I thought it would be."

One final recommendation. Always subtitle your nonfiction books. There are two very good reasons. First, Books in Print and other listing sources enter both the title and the subtitle in their databases, so you can get additional mileage out of your listing with a subtitle. Second, a subtitle also gives you an opportunity to describe your book.

[This post was created, with permission, from excerpts taken from The Complete to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition, co-authored by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier.]

What a Great Tip! Use Your Cover to Promote Your Book

If your book is either a soft cover book or a hard cover book with a dust jacket, here is a terrific suggestion that might save you a lot of money on book promotional materials. 

While your book printer is printing your book, have him print what is called an overrun - an additional quantity - of your book's cover or dust jacket. Because the press is already set up and running, your costs are likely to be incremental. The price you have to pay can be a great bargain when compared to full-color sales literature. And for a few bucks more can have the flaps trimmed off your dust jacket to create a dynamic book brochure.

And here is an added tip. To get additional mileage out of your cover or dust jacket, go to your neighborhood printer and have him print your table of contents, ordering information, etc. on the reverse sides. Voila! You're ready to do business. In some instances, you might be able to negotiate with your printer to print some book covers or dust jackets early - as an overrun of sales material - so you can have very professional-looking, advance promotional materials for your book.

Quite possibly, for a small expense, your book cover as a brochure can become an ideal promotional tool.

 [This post was created, with permission, from excerpts take from The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition, co-authored by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier.]

13 Initial Book Action Items You Need to Do

Beginning your book promotion programs can be a daunting challenge. To help you meet this challenge, here are 13 marketing strategies you might want to consider. They present some helpful ideas that can get you off to the right start.

  1. Compile names of reviewers, newsletter editors, associations, wholesalers, bookstores, special sales outlets, librarians, local media and other groups that may provide promotional opportunities.  Prepare labels and envelops.
  2. Write the following promotional materials: news release, sales letter, mock review, customer sales flier, and email pitch.
  3. Set up your website.
  4. Start mapping out your social network marketing campaign. Join Facebook and Twitter. Update your LinkedIn information and participate in groups
  5. Begin connecting with appropriate book clubs.
  6. If you plan to use direct marketing, test mail order ads.
  7. Prepare and begin contacting individuals from a personal mailing list from holiday card recipients, business associates, club membership directories, your own database and other sources.
  8. Start contacting bloggers and other sites for your virtual author book tours, if you plan on having them.
  9. Update your book detail page on, if you have one.
  10. Submit articles to online article sites, with links back to your website.
  11. Mail out your prepublication offer to targeted recipients.
  12. Have galleys printed and send out to potential reviewers as advanced copies.
  13. If applicable, begin a full-scale mail order campaign.

 [This post was created, with permission, from excerpts take from The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition, co-authored by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier.]

Tips When Using an Author's Photo

A book cover can often include the author's photo. On a dust-jacketed hard cover, we typically use the entire back for sales copy and put the photo and bio on the back flap. Paperbacks typically have the sales copy, an author photo and brief bio all on the back cover.

If you want to reserve the entire back cover for sales copy, you can include the author photo within the book. You'll want a black and white glossy print unless you're doing a full color cover. It's important to realize that your author picture is for a different purpose than any photo you have ever had taken.  Its main objective is to sell you as the expert.

So what are some of the mistakes authors make when it comes to producing a photo?

Usually a snapshot is submitted instead of a thoughfully and professionally composed photo, which means all the the things wrong you'd expect - things like a cluttered background, out of focus image, and an unflattering and uninteresting picture.

This does not mean the photo should be a plastic, perfectly groomed but lifeless grinning studio shot. What it needs to do is to give the viewer a good sense of the persona of the author and, most of all, be close up enough that you can actually see the face. It should also be a well-composed and effective photograph of good reproduction quality - which means you should get a professional or really good photo bug to take it.

 [This post was created, with permission, from excerpts take from The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition, co-authored by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier.]

Tips on Do-It-Yourself Page Design - Part 2

[The following is a second post of a two-part series. Click here to read Part 1.]

When is comes to page design, the decisions to be made about the type itself include style, size and white space. Remember, the hallmark of good typography is legibility.

There are two major families of type: serifs and sans serifs. Serifs are easier to read because they have little hooks on them that serve to hold the eye on the line. Some common, easy-to-read style are Century Schoolbook, Times Roman, Bodoni, Garamond, Palatino and Bookman. When you find a style that pleases you, stick with it rather than mixing faces. The place to introduce something different, such as a sans serif typeface, is in the chapter titles or subheads.

Point is one of the standard units of measurement used in typesetting. A point is approximately 1/72 inches. The other standard unit of measurement is the pica. One pica equals 12 points, or approximately 1/16 inches. Line lengths for typeset copy are specified in picas. For instance, a line that measures four inches wide would be disignated as 64 picas.

The white space between lines is called line space or leading. It is typically the type size plus two. For example, 10/12 indicates 10-point type with 12-point leading. Its purpose is to make the lines of type spread apart enough so that they do not strain the eye.

Most newspapers and magazine are done in 9- or 10-point type. Eleven-point is a nice, readable size. Often, the kind of book can dictate a size range. A children's book, for instance, will want larger type.

From a style perspective, there are certain things you may want highlighted by the use of boldface or italics. As a general rule, chapter headings and other important divisions should be done in boldface or with a different font.

But the biggest consideration is this. When it comes to book design, or more specifically page design, the most imp0rtant thing you can do is to make your book as easy as possible for someone to read.

[This post was created, with permission, from excerpts take from The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition, co-authored by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier.]

Tips on Do-It-Yourself Page Design - Part 1

If you are proficient on your computer and have decided to do your own interior page design work, there are some choices you'll need to make and necessary equipment to invest in if you don't already have it.

Right at the beginning you need to be thinking about how your book will be printed. Different book printers have different requirements. 

Most book manufacturers will accept either PC or Mac files. They do, however, have specific requirements on the types of software or final files they will accept. The most common page layout programs are Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress.  You've probably been using Microsoft Word for your writing and editing. These word processing files can be imported directly into the page layout software. Whatever you choose, be sure to talk to your book printer ahead of time about compatibility.

The vast majority of book printers - if not all of them - do not accept files in Microsoft Word. Word files are very unpredictable when transferred from computer to computer. Word does not have the capability to report the fonts that were used to build the document or reveal when a font is missing or has been replaced. Such problems can cause the text on the pages to reflow and graphics to behave unpredictably. Virtually all book printers accept PDF files.

If you plan to scan your own photos or graphics, you'll need a good quality scanner. For your interior graphics, you'll need to scan at a minimum of 300 dpi. You'll also need the software (example: Photoshop) to operate your scanner. 

In Part 2 of this post, we will discuss options you have regarding type, including style and size, the use of white space, using boldface and italics, and other issues involving do-it-yourself page design.

[This post was created, with permission, from excerpts take from The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition, co-authored by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier.]