Write the Book – Tips and Tricks

In my last post (Write The Book – Here’s Why) I let you all in on two very specific secrets that everyone who’s ever written a book learned along the way. The first secret was that writing a book is hard – it’s much harder than you think, and certainly harder than it looks. Even the ways in which it’s hard won’t be what you’re expecting. It is a process that uncovers your greatest insecurities and exposes your biggest weaknesses. It’s not a “fun” thing to do.

But the second secret was that all of that difficulty, all of the struggle that comes with writing your first book is absolutely and totally WORTH it. Why? Because the process of writing a book is the most effective way to turn yourself into a writer. It will teach you what you cannot be taught in any other way. It will test you and refine you. It will make you better and force you to grow. And most importantly, it will make every single thing that you ever write in your future (books included) THAT MUCH easier, stronger, and more definitively YOU.

Believe me – I’m speaking from experience here. The process of writing my first book was insanely difficult – it took me three years and probably 15 drafts to finish it. It was a miserable experience. But it left me with an indescribable sense of fulfillment when I finished. What’s more – the lessons I learned writing my first book made the second one so easy that it almost felt like I’d managed to cheat somehow!

But how do you actually get through the process of writing that first book – especially since it IS so difficult? It’s a good question, one that I’ve been asking myself for the last week or so. I wanted to be able to give my friend (remember Kelly – the one who’s just started writing her first book?) some tips that would serve as more than just generalized encouragement. I wanted to tell her something that would actually help her find success. Here’s what I came up with.

1. Find a writing buddy – You’ll need the encouragement and help of someone who’s done this before (or someone who’s willing to do it with you). Friends and family are great at being supportive, but you’ll want to be in contact with at least one person who understands the specifics of what you’re dealing with every day.

2. Create a plan – One of the best things you can do for yourself is plan what you’re going to write before you write it. The level of detail you go into will depend on the type of person/writer you are. But don’t make the mistake of going into your first writing project with only a vague sense of what you’re going to do.

3. Write every day – (or 4 days a week, or whatever works for you) The point it – you have to make it mandatory. You’ll have good writing days and bad writing days. Some days you’ll write entire chapters, and others you’ll struggle through a few sentences. That’s all fine (and it should be expected). But you have to make writing a habit, or you’ll never get through it.

4. Make yourself accountable – Again, how this happens will vary depending on who you are. Are you the type who won’t be able to sleep if you haven’t met your daily writing goal? Or do you need the pressure of external deadlines (like someone asking to see pages every week) to keep yourself on track? Figure that out – and then set up a system that works for you.

5. First write, then refine – If you’re busy freaking out over your chapter length before you’ve written your first 500 words, you’ll never get anywhere. You have to start by writing. Until you’ve written something down, there’s no way to assess its strengths and weaknesses. Don’t paralyze yourself with fears and worries before you get the words out. Just write.

6. Don’t give up – You’ll have plenty of opportunities. You’ll have days when you want to throw it all away. Don’t let those days get to you. Just keep moving forward. Eventually, you’ll reach the end of this journey, and when you do, you’ll have something to show for it all. You’ll have a book, and a wealth of experience and knowledge that you wouldn’t trade for the world. You’ll have that secret little smile that creeps on your face when someone tells you how they’ve always wanted to write a book – and you’ll have plenty of words of encouragement and sage advice to give them – because you’ll know exactly what they’re facing, and  you’ll still be able to assure them that it’s well worth the effort.

 

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Write the Book – Here’s Why

I have a friend (let’s call her Kelly) who recently began the long and arduous journey of writing a book. I found out a few weeks ago when she posted something on facebook about becoming an author. I reached out to offer her my congratulations, and discovered that by “becoming an author” she meant “beginning to write a book.”

“Oh!” I said in my least disappointed voice. “Well … that’s just wonderful!” She explained that she’d written the first few pages of the first chapter. We went on from there to talk about her ideas for this book, and for the next. It was easy, in that context, to be encouraging and genuinely excited. But as I walked away from the conversation, I couldn’t help but say a quick prayer that this book that she’d announced to the world would actually happen.

Because there’s a little secret about book-writing that I’ve learned over the past few years, one that I am very careful about sharing. The secret is this: Writing your first book is incredibly hard. As you can imagine, that’s not the kind of secret that I’m eager to share with the people in my life who are considering taking the plunge into the writing world. I’m not looking to discourage anyone. But it’s kind of hard to see someone who I know and love starting along on this journey without the first clue what they’re facing.

Sure enough – the next time I saw Kelly (a week or so later) and asked her how the writing was going, we had a completely different conversation. This time she seemed deflated, overwhelmed, and ready to give up on the project entirely. Suddenly she didn’t think her writing was any good. She was afraid of the mountain of work that was waiting in front of her. She felt stuck.

I remember that feeling so well – the feeling that everything you’re trying to do is pointless and the finished product of your hours and hours of work will barely produce enough words for a picture-book and will be universally hated by anyone who ever sees it. I spent plenty of time in that place – and I’m pretty sure every other person with a book under their belt has felt the same way too.

But here’s the other secret that I’ve learned along the way – and this one is worth sharing: It’s worth it. The whole process of taking an idea out of your head and cultivating it on (virtual) paper until it is shaped into the story or argument that you’d imagined – the whole long, difficult, frustrating process is totally worth it. It’s worth it even if that book never goes to print. It’s worth it even if it isn’t a huge commercial success. Even if it’s absolute garbage and sits in a drawer and never sees the light of day, that first book you write is totally worth the time and effort it takes to write it.

Why? Because there is no way to learn how to write a book except to go out there and write one. You can read and study and get advice and do all the research you want, but nothing can properly prepare you for the process of sitting down at a computer, starting, continuing, and ultimately finishing a book of your own. Because the truth is that writing is a uniquely personal process. Your approach and technique will not look like anyone else’s. You have a  unique combination of strengths and weaknesses. Your style, your voice – they belong only to you – and these are all things that you have to sort out for yourself.

So if you’re toying with the idea of writing a book – if that’s one of the dreams that’s in your heart, then go and do it. Don’t make excuses. Don’t wait for a “good” time. Don’t put it off. Just sit down and write the book. It’ll be hard. It might very well be one of the hardest things you do. But when you’re done you will emerge as a different (hopefully better) person – one with a set of skills, a unique voice, and incredible sense of accomplishment that you cannot develop in any other way.

Gratitude

Here’s the thing. As authors, especially as independent authors, we end up relying on a lot of other people to help us bring our ideas into reality.  Don’t get me wrong, we shoulder an incredible portion of the workload all on our own. We are the people who are ultimately responsible for getting everything done. But we don’t work in a vacuum. We get help – possibly more than we actively realize – and without it we probably wouldn’t make it.

So it’s important for us to give something back to those people who assist us along the way. Some people we hire for professional work – they give us their time and expertise, and we give them money in return. But other people give us little pieces of things we need without expecting any type of compensation. Those are the people who can be so easily overlooked. And they are the ones who shouldn’t be.

All of this occurred to me earlier this week when my very best friend asked me to fill out a survey to help her with a business venture. Since she is my very best friend, and the type of person who would do absolutely anything I ever asked, I filled out the survey immediately without a second thought. Because that’s what we do for each other – we encourage each other. We find ways to participate in each others’ success. We check up on each other. We act as sounding boards and personal venting recipients, and anything else that it’s possible for us to be over long distances and with busy schedules.

But as I filled out her survey it occurred to me that my current book project was built on a set of assumptions about my target audience that might not be entirely accurate, and that a simple survey like the one I was currently taking would be a wonderful way to gauge whether those assumptions were, in fact, correct.

And so I went over to surveymonkey.com, (an awesome tool, by the way), created a free account, and put together a quick and simple survey to test my most basic of presumptions about my audience.  And then I went onto facebook and asked my friends and family to take 5 minutes to fill it out.

At first, nothing happened. Which is to say, I got 4 or 5 responses from my 4 or 5 closest friends and most facebook addicted family members. But I already knew what they thought about my topic. I wanted to know what other, average, anonymous people thought.

That’s when it occurred to me that what I was asking people to do was to help me. I was expecting them take the time and effort to give me information about themselves, even though I was asking in the most impersonal, generalized way. I wasn’t demonstrating that their individual input was valuable. I wasn’t giving them anything back. So why was I expecting them to care?

That got me thinking about what we can give to the people who help us along the way. Money isn’t always a reasonable option. Favors in return aren’t necessarily viable either. But the one thing that we can always give, the one thing that is always appreciated, is gratitude. So I changed my approach. I sent messages to people individually or in small groups (circles of friends who knew each other, for instance) explaining what I needed and why their help would be so appreciated. I told them that it was anonymous, and that if they weren’t interested that was fine (since I wouldn’t know anyway). And then I said thank you, in advance, for their help.

Within an hour I went from 4 responses to over 20, and ever since then the numbers have been steadily rising. The responses I’m getting have been incredibly enlightening, affirming some of my preconceptions and changing others. They’ve already helped to focus my thoughts and better construct my arguments. I know that they’re going to help me produce a much more relevant and compelling book.

The moral of the story is a simple one: don’t take people for granted. Your connections to them may be tenuous at best. Their contributions to your life and work may be minuscule. But if someone has taken even a moment to help you along your journey to success, they deserve your gratitude. It doesn’t cost you anything to say thank you. But the rewards of doing so can be immeasurable.

PS: If you want to take the survey, I’d love to get your feedback. It’s 9 simple questions about your dreams and aspirations, and what you’re doing to see them happen. It’ll take you less than 2 minutes, and who knows? You might even enjoy it 🙂

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TTXGPHH

What I’d forgotten about writing

Just a few weeks ago I came up with an exciting idea for a new book. I’d been playing around with a bunch of mildly-interesting but honestly not thrilling ideas for a few weeks, when suddenly it hit me and I realized I had my next project on my hands (yaay)!

Of course the first book I wrote was a passion project that I wasn’t even sure would ever see the light of day. I was writing, in other words, because I had something I wanted to write, and a book seemed the only way to put it out there. That being said, finishing the book was such an arduously long (read 2+ years) and difficult (2+ YEARS people) project, that when I finally published it last March I found myself in total writer-burnout-mode, and decided that what I really needed was some time OFF. That is, of course, the opposite of what writers are supposed to do. I did it anyway, and I’m glad I did. But now that I’m writing new material again for the first time in 3 years, I’m suddenly remembering so many things about my writing process that I’d somehow forgotten.

1. I need an outline, the more detailed the better. I know this seems so common-sense that it’s almost absurd to have to write it down. But I have this wonderful tendency to start with the barest of thumbnail sketches. Then I jump in with gleeful abandon, letting the writing take me where it will. That’s all well and good for a quick blog post or a stand-alone essay.  It’s a lot more problematic when I have 50,000 words to get through and a point I’m trying to make at the end. Having an outline for every section of every chapter helps me determine if my writing for the day actually managed to move me forward, or if it’s pulled me off course.

2. Daily goals are motivating. They’re also empowering. I work a full time job and have several other commitments and extracurricular activities that make it very hard to find regular time for writing. My writing goals, therefore, are remarkably small: 1,000 words a day, 7,000 a week. Sometimes even those are hard to reach, so when I know I’m going to have a difficult or busy day I try to get some extra writing done earlier in the week to give myself a head start. But even though the goals are small and my progress is slow, the fact that I am accountable to myself to sit down and write every day keeps me focused. It also gives me an incredible sense of accomplishment to see those (admittedly small) goals met day after day, week after week. It puts the frustrations, difficulties, and problems in perspective when I can look at a word count and say with confidence “I’ve made progress today.”

3. Some days writing is just hard. And that’s ok. There are days when I stare at that blinking cursor on my screen as though it were my arch-nemesis. Some days I struggle to put words down on paper for what seems like an eternity, and marvel at the word count that refuses to budge despite my best efforts. Not every page is going to flow magically from my mind to the paper. Sometimes it will be an all-out struggle. But if I persevere, it will get written eventually. Every sentence counts. Every word moves the writing forward. And the only way to make no progress whatsoever is to stop trying.

4. Writing badly doesn’t make me a bad writer. I have to remember to give myself permission to write badly from time to time. Sometimes it’s better to get it on paper, even if it looks and sounds terrible, than it is to let it sit in your head as you search for the perfect words to express your idea. I’ve found over time that I’m much better at going back and fixing these difficult and unruly passages than I am at saying them perfectly the first time around.

5. It’s not a sprint. It’s not a marathon either. It’s the Tour de France. It’s long. It’s grueling. And every day you have to get up and go back out there and do it again. Good days, bad days, and every day in between, the main thing is to get out there and do it again. And when you’re done at the end of the day, celebrate the fact that you finished. Give yourself the right to feel the sense of accomplishment. And then go do something else for a while, because before you know it you’ll be back out there tomorrow, climbing another hill.

6. I “waste” a lot of time re-reading and editing as I go, but that’s not actually a waste of time. It’s part of my process. If I’m at the beginning of a chapter I’m fine with jumping in cold. But if I’ve been working on a section in the past, it’s important for me to read through what I’ve written already. That’s how I find my voice, my rhythm, and my flow. Without it, my writing becomes a series of starts and stops, fits and spurts. Nobody wants that. So even though the constant backtracking can take up more time than I’d like, it is what helps me move forward in an orderly and meaningful fashion.

7. Sometime a little affirmation goes a long long way. I started writing this book without any input from anyone. In fact, I didn’t even tell a single person that I as considering writing it until I was halfway through the second chapter. When I did, one of the first people I told was my very best friend on the planet. She was unwaveringly supportive of my writing the first time around, even though the topic of my first book really wasn’t the type of thing that she was naturally drawn to. This time, however, her first reaction was “I want to read that!” and just reading those five simple words motivated me in ways that I can’t even explain. So yes, writing is a solitary endeavor, and yes I have learned not to depend on other people’s participation in my pursuit of progress. But getting a little jolt of “yes” in the right moment was absolutely wonderful!

7 Tips for Non-Fiction Writers

There are thousands of blogs out there with thousands of posts filled with advice about how to write fiction. Plotting, character development, world building, timelines – heck, I’ve even read blog posts on how to give a character an accent. It seems like there’s no end to the detailed and (one would hope) informed nuggets of writerly wisdom.

But what about those of us who don’t write fiction? Our writing universe is, in many ways, vastly different than the world of fiction writers. Much of what we struggle with and many of the problems we face are unique to our genre. So where are our nuggets of wisdom? Where are our helpful hints and sage suggestions? Advise from those who’ve done what we do seems to be a little thinner on the ground. So in the interest of filling in a bit of the void, here are a few tips, tricks, and suggestions that I’ve picked up along the way. Maybe they’ll help you as much as they’ve helped me.

1. Do your research. This might seem obvious, but it’s not. If you choose to write nonfiction, it’s often because you already know something about the subject. As a result, nonfiction writers often have a lot to say that requires no research whatsoever. But go out and take a look anyway. See what’s out there relating to your topic. You might be surprised at the insights you can gain that will help to inspire, focus, or even broaden your topic of discussion.

That being said, you don’t want to fall into the research black hole (the one where you get so absorbed in your topic that you emerge 6 months later with stacks of data and not a single word written). So pace yourself and remember that you don’t need to complete all the research before you start to write. You’ll be better equipped to go looking for specific information once you hone down the specific needs of your book.

2. Find a way to add interest. Remember that it never hurts to find a structure and a voice that will make your topic surprising or engaging for your audience. Yes your topic is probably widely fascinating all on its own, and your readers will pick up your book because they’re interested in what you have to say. But if you think back to some of the best nonfiction you’ve ever read you’ll probably realize that what made it special was the fact that it gave you more than you’d anticipated.

Please understand, this isn’t about tricks and gimmicks. It’s about finding ways to add layers of meaning, depth, or texture to your perspective. If you’re writing about large social issues, can you create a structure that makes it more personal? If you’re telling someone’s story, can you place it in a larger historical context? Can you ground you abstract ideas into something concrete and practical? Do you want to fill your how-to manual with silly or embarrassing anecdotes? Remember that non-fiction shouldn’t equal dull!

3. Build a structure. I’ve written entire blog posts about the importance of creating a solid structure for your non-fiction writing before you start to write. You can read them here and here. Remember that unless you’re telling a chronological story (in fact, even IF you’re telling a chronological story), you are going to have to make decisions on how to order and organize your material. Every book needs a narrative flow, a pattern that the reader can follow as the book progresses.  Deciding how you’re going to address that for YOUR book is something you should do before you start writing.

This is essentially the nonfiction version of world building. Yes, you can make these things up as you go along, but chances are good that the end result will feel like … well, like you made it up as you went along. Decide on your book’s world now. What are the rules of this book? What patterns exist in the writing? What overarching themes are you addressing? Grounding yourself in these things at the beginning will give you a solid foundation that you can build on.

4. Plan ahead!  When I was in college writing research papers, I would write all of the data that I wanted to use (stats, quotes, etc) on individual index cards. Then I would structure my paper around my data. I’d decide ahead of time which references I was going to use in each section, and I’d clump my cards together accordingly. That not only helped me include all of my relevant data in each section, but it also instantly alerted me to the places where I needed to go back to do more research (See #1 above).

Now I’m not saying you have to use index cards, or even that you should write around your data – by all means do what works for you. But you do need a game plan. Maybe you’ll use some awesome computer software to track these thing (I don’t – but I’ve heard there’s great stuff out there). Or maybe you’ll use color coded post-its on a huge cork board over your desk (don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it. It’s a lot more fun than you’d think). But the point is that you have to do something. After all, you are writing a full-length book, which means you have a lot more to keep track of then I did back in college. Besides, if you’ve already done your research (see #1) and created a viable structure (see #3), it should be relatively easy at this stage to take what you want to say and fit it into the appropriate slots. Doing this before you start to write will tell you a) whether the structure you’ve chosen is working for you and b) where you have too much or too little to say.

5. Own your artistic voice. This tip isn’t necessarily exclusive to nonfiction writers, but it is especially important for us to remember. Your book may not be a work of fiction, but it is still a creative endeavor. You are an artist who uses a keyboard to paint a picture of the world for your readers. Don’t be afraid of embracing that title.

So many nonfiction writers, even those who’ve written successfully in other venues, seem to have trouble keeping their creativity flowing once they sit down to tackle a book. It’s almost as if the weight of the thousands of words ahead of them somehow muffle their natural voices. But the buttoned up formality of a voice that isn’t yours will never produce great writing. So make a point to own your voice. Write with confidence. Write from a place of truth. Write what you know – and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

6. Don’t be afraid to keep it short. You’re not writing a novel. You are not required to produce 75-100 thousand words in order for your book to be consider a satisfying length. Some non-fiction books are long by necessity, and that’s fine. But if you finish what you have to say in 40 thousand words, don’t be afraid to stop. There’s no reason for you to feel the need to pad out your manuscript with useless fluff or unnecessary extras. You are better off keeping your work short, focused, and to the point. Remember – what makes a book good is powerful writing. That’s what’s going to satisfy your audience.

7. Engage your audience. Non-fiction writers have a distinct advantage over fiction writers when it comes to audience-interaction. Because your potential readers are normally specifically interested in your topic, and because you are talking about something real (what with it being nonfiction and all…) you have the unique opportunity to build your brand by interacting directly with your readers ABOUT the topic of your book.

So make sure that you take advantage of this opportunity. Get out there and find your readers, and once you find them, engage with them in a meaningful and intelligent way! Build your website, of course. Get yourself on twitter or facebook or whatever you want to get onto – and then USE that platform to talk about what you know. Share excerpts from the book, insights that didn’t make it in, research that you didn’t use, or knowledge of related subjects. Don’t let your nonfiction status go to waste. You have the opportunity of a lifetime to find readers, to retain them, and to keep them constantly coming back for more!

What about you? What tips or tricks have helped you with your non-fiction writing? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Book Covers – Getting them Right

No matter how the saying goes, the truth is that the cover of a book has a huge impact on our perception of what we’re going to find inside. That’s why it’s SO important to get a book cover RIGHT. It’s about more than just making something that looks pretty. A cover that’s done right will instantly tell the reader a lot about the book that they’re looking at.

Would you like an example?  Great! Let’s make one up.  Let’s pretend that you’re in a bookstore and you run across a bestselling book entitled “Poppies for Polly.” What is it about? What section of the bookstore does it belong in? Is it the type of thing that you’d like to read? That’s hard to say, isn’t it? I mean, with just the title to go by, your guess is just as good as mine.

That’s why the cover of a book plays such an important role. So let’s look at three different covers, for “Poppies for Polly” and see what we can deduce from them:

dark kids pink

Here we have three different “covers” for three distinctly different books. Now to be fair – these aren’t anything close to legitimate book covers. I threw them together in the middle of writing this post using a word processor, and the whole process took me less than 5 minutes. Actually, you may have noticed that the only differences between these three “covers” are the background color and the font that I chose. But don’t those two simple choices convey an incredible wealth of information? As ugly, unprofessional, and simple as these covers are – don’t they give you much more insight into the content of the books they represent than the title alone ever could?

Even without pictures or graphics it’s pretty obvious where each of these books belong in the spectrum of current literature. The first cover obviously tells a dark story – some sort of mystery or thriller. It feels modern and menacing. The second clearly belongs to a children’s book (or perhaps a book about children) – clearly either aimed at or discussing younger kids. The third cover would fit on a romance novel or a chick-lit story.

Like I said before, these covers aren’t great. They aren’t even good. But they are CLEAR. Just by looking at them you learn something about the books that they represent. And because they so clearly represent the genres into which they fall, they will manage to perform their most basic function – namely to draw the attention of the author’s intended audience.

So what lesson should you take from this exercise?

The answer is simple – make sure you get your cover right. Identify your genre, and then do your research. Look at the 10 or 20 best selling books in your category and see what their covers have in common. Figure out a formula of what your target audience expects to see and then STICK TO THAT FORMULA.

Your cover doesn’t have to be dull. It’s allowed to stand out. But it should never look out of place among the other books that your readers are reaching for. There is no quicker way to lose readers than to present them with a cover that fails to convey the information they’re looking for.

 

Proof Copies: Do I REALLY need them?

Yes.

We could end it there and call this the shortest blog entry I’ll ever write. But that wouldn’t be much fun, would it?

So let’s talk for a while about WHY you need proof copies of your book.

We’ll start with a few basic presumptions. We’ll presume that you’ve written your manuscript, that you’ve re-written it several times, that you’ve had it edited (hopefully professionally!) and made the necessary changes. We’ll presume that you’re releasing a paperback and that you’re industrious and decided to do the page layout and formatting yourself.

Are we all on the same page? Good.

Given these presumptions, how long would you guess you’ve spent staring at these words on your computer screen, even after you’ve finished writing them? Over the course of your many drafts and edits, how many times have you read over the same words? The answer is many – you have spent many many hours reading the same 70,000 words many times over.

And that, my friend, is the main reason why you need physical proof copies of your book. The problem isn’t that you’re lazy or stupid or sloppy.  You’ve read through every word of your book over and over again to catch even the smallest mistake, but that creates a whole different problem.

You see, the human brain has an incredible capacity to translate actual information to meet its own expectations. Have you ever read that email that gets forwarded around every few years where the letters in the words are all jumbled up, but you can still read it because the first and last letters are in the right place? Or have you ever glanced at a sign quickly and done a double-take because you think it says something wildly inappropriate? On closer examination you will probably discover that the actual words on that sign aren’t what you thought you saw. This happens because our minds work as our own visual Universal Translators (no Trekkies here? Would a Tardis reference be better? … No? oh never mind!) The point is that the brain is very good at taking the mixed up visual data that our eyes capture and fitting it into the empty slots of what we EXPECT to see. It’s a kind of mental shorthand that enables us to understand what is being presented to us even when it is visually incomplete or incorrect.  The more familiar we are with a visual cue (sign, symbol, word, sentence, etc.) the more easily we recognize it, and the less work our brain has to do to translate.

That’s a very handy trait under certain circumstances, like when reading signs on the side of the highway or skimming through your facebook feed.  It’s a lot LESS handy when you’re attempting to do something like proofing your own writing.  The more time you’ve spent on a text, the more familiar you become with it. The more familiar you become with it, the more likely your brain is to implement its handy-dandy visual translation trick when information is incomplete or incorrect.  That’s why you can read a sentence very carefully on more than one occasion and never realize that there’s a word missing.  This is doubly true if you are constantly looking at the information in the same format (in a Word document on your computer screen, for instance).

So how do you trick your brain into turning off this less-than-helpful superpower? The key is to find a way to make the words less familiar. Take them out of the setting that you’re used to seeing them in. Force your mind to actually engage with the text, rather than allowing it to see what it always sees. There are ways to do this before you get to the “proof copy” stage of the book-making game. Printing out your manuscript is one way of doing it.  Putting it in a drawer for a month is another. Both of these ideas work because they take away the familiarity factor. Words on a page read differently than words on a screen. Words that you haven’t seen in a month read differently than words you worked on yesterday.

But let’s say you’ve done that a half-dozen times or so. Do you still need to order a proof copy of your book?

YES

Because this is the only way that you will see exactly what your consumer will see.  And for whatever reason, things that didn’t stand out to you while you were formatting your text or editing your manuscript will become glaringly obvious when you see it in on that magical 6×9 page, held in your hand, and flipped through for the first time.

Let me tell you – I am a meticulous person, and if you’d asked me at the time of submitting my book for printing if I’d needed a proof copy I probably would have laughed. But I ordered a proof copy anyway. And a week or so later, when I received it and read through it, I was SHOCKED at the errors that I found. It wasn’t that there were so many – but they were so blatant, so obvious, that I couldn’t fathom how I’d missed them! There was even one on the first page. How mortifying is that?!?

So if you’re planning on self-publishing your book take my advice – order a physical proof copy before you hit that “publish” button. Believe me, it’s better to wait the extra week or two and find the typos yourself than it is to skip that step and have those typos found by readers. Remember, it only takes one or two glaring errors to convince a reader that they are dealing with an inferior product. And that’s not the impression you’re looking to leave, is it?