This wonderful new age of indie authors means that there are many first-time book writers out there who aren’t sure what they should do once they’ve finished creating their work of fiction or non-fiction.

Here’s a suggested course of action consisting of 5 steps. I’m assuming you’ve reached the stage where you’re happy with what you’ve written and, as far as you’ve concerned, you’ve done as much work on it as you can.

1. Take a break for a few days, and then read your MS through one last time, no matter how many times you’ve already checked it. (MS = manuscript, i.e. the unpublished work in whatever format.) You’ll almost certainly spot some silly mistakes, typos, inconsistencies etc that you’ve missed up to now. Correct them, but don’t start tinkering unnecessarily with other parts of the text. You have to stop the writing part some time.

2. At the same time, get a friend or family member to read the MS through. Ask them specifically to make a note of any errors they find. Don’t ask for general comments – those aren’t necessarily helpful!

3. Get the book edited. This can be the tricky part. OK, it’s not obligatory but it is EXTREMELY helpful. Search online for a freelance editor and do shop around to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

Book editors are professionals who are trained to be good with words. They will polish your book to bring out its full potential. But how do they do that?

To start with, you can expect the editor you’ve chosen to read through the first few thousand words, free of charge. This will give him or her an idea of your standard of writing and how much work they will be having to do to polish up your book. They’ll report back, and may suggest you deal with some of the issues yourself to save paying them to do that. For example, we all have our favourite words and phrases – just, however, could only, in no time at all etc. An editor will quickly spot yours, and may ask you to work through and replace these. At this stage they’ll be able to give you an estimate of what their fees will be to work on your book. I charge per 1,000 words; other editors charge on an hourly basis.

Once you’ve had the editor’s feedback and quote and given the go-ahead, you may receive queries from the editor. For example, possibly you’ve given your hero blond hair in some places, and black in others. The editor will want to know which is your preferred colour. He or she might spot a hitch in the time frame of the story’s action, or pick up a subplot that doesn’t go anywhere, and ask what you want to do about these. Do respond to queries as promptly as you can so your editor can complete the project quickly and efficiently.

Editors should only be looking to do a minimal edit anyway on indie books if they’re tuned in to this market. Remember, you’re only after a polish. You don’t want someone else totally rewriting your book to suit themself, which is something that can happen. An editor’s job is to fine-tune what’s there. They will certainly rephrase and reorganise parts of your text to make it clearer for the reader, or to avoid repetitions, or to correct inaccuracies, but that’s as far as it should go. And let’s face it. Indie authors don’t have much money. You can’t afford to pay for major surgery. A lot of freelance editors work mainly with publishing houses that have a vast budget and can pay a generous fee. Indies can’t. It’s a fact that you’re probably not going to be earning a great deal of money from your ebooks, at least initially. It’s a hugely competitive market out there, with lots of free and very cheap books around at the moment. This is a good advertising ploy but it’s unsustainable. We’ll see ebook prices rise, and with it author income, but for the short term, readers aren’t willing to pay a lot for an ebook. You can’t afford to pay a ridiculous sum for editing.

4. Once you have your edited text back, it’s time to publish electronically. Formatting for Smashwords and Kindle is actually quite straightforward. You can do it yourself if you’re prepared to put the effort in the first time around and follow the instructions on the relevant publishing platforms to get it right. It’s a matter of a few hours’ work. Once you’ve done one book, it becomes quick and easy to do the rest. But ebook editors will take care of this part of the process if you ask them. They shouldn’t charge much for this.

5. Work on your author platform. What’s this? At its most basic, it’s a website, blog, Twitter account and Facebook page. It can be as huge and complex as you like! But that’s for another day.

As for my own editing services, I’ve done a lot of research and I’ve matched the lowest going rates out there. More expensive editors will say you pay for what you get, implying cheaper editors aren’t as experienced. Well, I’ve had 25 years’ experience, and I’m also a published author both of print books and ebooks. Knowing the ebook markets from both sides is a huge advantage. Cheaper editors are simply being more realistic, since they’re more in tune with the world of indie authoring.

 

To only use “said” alongside the dialogue in your book is uninspiring and, let’s be honest, lazy. There are literally hundreds of alternatives lying idle in the dictionary. Go ahead and make their day by using them!

I’ve come up with over 2,000 substitutes in my latest eBook offering, and my list is just a starting point. Make your own alternatives up. Be inventive. Employ conversion, which is when you turn one word form e.g. an adjective or a noun, into another e.g. a verb. I’ve do this a lot. There’s no law against it and it makes your language interesting. Conversion is particularly common in English because the basic form of nouns and verbs is identical in many cases. Converting words is a growing trend. For example, Facebook, noun, has become a verb – “I Facebooked Fred yesterday”. Same with text (noun) when it’s used to do with sending messages by mobile phone. “Will you text Suzie about the meeting please?” And my daughter is always Kindling, i.e. reading on her Kindle.

Language is meant to evolve. It’s a living thing.

Even in children’s books you should ring the changes as much as possible. Too many authors in this genre seem to think kids can only cope with “said” and, on a good day, “asked” as well. Crazy! I was talking to some pupils at a school in Ireland about my books. One child informed me that I used a lot of long words in my books, to my surprise, as I have always attempted to use language of an appropriate level for the age group I was aiming at. I asked if that put her off reading them. “Oh no,” she smiled. “Now I know lots of long words too!” So you see, your inventive and creative writing in avoiding “said” both livens up the text and teaches kids new words.

Don’t be afraid to push language to its limits like Larkin, Pound and other poets have tried to do. Enrich your readers’ vocabulary at the same time as entertaining them. Don’t be boring. And PLEASE don’t say “said”!

My eBook of 2,100 alternatives to “said” listed alphabetically, and incorporating both UK and US English spellings, is intended to inspire you to be more adventurous in your use of language. Not all of the suggestions will work in every case. They’re not meant to, but there will be the odd time when each one is the perfect word.

To get your copy, available in pdf and prc formats, go to my eBook-ed.it website here, fill in your name and email address (your details won’t be passed on to anyone) and you’ll receive an email with the link to follow.  I hope you’ll find the eBook useful!

I was going to  jump on the bandwagon and blog about the French Kindle store being open now. This is great news! Finally I can get 99 cent books for 99 cents, and not $3.44. There won’t be quite as many English language books available as on amazon.com but probably enough to keep me going for a while!

This afternoon I got another book up on Smashwords. The Witch’s Dog is available for free from here. I’m delighted to say it’s already had one 5-star review. It’s for 5 to 10 year olds, roughly. It’s a non-scary, happy, fun witchy story. No ensuing nightmares, I promise!

I hope you like the cover. I did this one! Caiti is rather busy with homework at weekends at the moment, so it was up to me. I wanted to get this book out for Halloween. I’ve left it rather late as it is…

The dog is our Nessie. I took loads of photos of her, but since she kept rolling over, this was the only one that worked!

Well, my second book is now up on Amazon in Kindle format. It’s Beat the Hackers, a work of juvenile fiction about hackers and computers with a strong female protagonist. Daughter Caiti designed me a brilliant cover:

And here is a sample from it to whet your appetites. It’s from near the end of the book. Heather and her father Ray are on the run from Domination, a mysterious company that created a universally popular, free anti-hacker software. However, it’s not quite what it seems, and Ray, with Heather’s help, is the only person who can prove it. They have just one possibly ally – Lucien Montgomery, head of Teuthras Communciations. They are meant to meet with him at midday:

Heather wandered over to the coffee bar. She chose four of the stickiest looking muffins they had and ordered two tall, double cappuccinos. She took the heavy tray to a corner table and waited for her father to join her.

They idly watched the passers-by as they ate and drank. Then gradually Heather became aware that they were being watched. She felt a prickling at the back of her neck. She casually glanced around. A few tables away, two people were sitting, apparently minding their own business. But they weren’t ordinary people. The man was tall and blonde and had deep blue eyes. He was immaculately turned out in some sort of designer suit. The woman with him was stunning. She had a beautiful figure and wore a fantastic tailored trouser suit. The perfect couple, thought Heather. Suddenly she stiffened. Perfect. That was it! She thought back to the photos of the perfect people her father had collected when he was researching Domination. Her blood ran cold. These people were too perfect. They were Domination perfect! And they were watching her and her dad.

She glanced away. This time her eye was caught by a tall, good looking man, pretending to window shop a short distance away. Beyond him was another perfect guy, trying to look inconspicuous in an Armani suit and browsing at postcards outside a newsagent’s.

Yes. Domination had definitely found them.

“Don’t look now, Dad,” said Heather quietly, trying to swallow her fear, “but there are some Domination people around. At the table behind us, and two more in the mall.”

Ray almost dropped his cup in alarm.

“What?” he hissed. He glanced around nonchalantly, checking out Heather’s claims. “That’s them, all right. We’re trapped!”

“Stay cool, Dad. Goodness knows how they tracked us down here. But never mind that now. We can run for it, I reckon.” Heather was beginning to make plans.

“We can try,” he said, but without much hope. “Look, I’ll slide you a set of USBs under the table. If we get separated, take these to show Montgomery on your own, OK? If you can’t, never mind. There’s still Marcus to back us up.”

“OK, Dad,” nodded Heather.

Ray discreetly fumbled in his bag and then pushed something under the table towards Heather with his foot. She carelessly leant down, on the pretext of adjusting her sock, picked up the USBs in their bag and slipped them into her jacket pocket.

“Fancy a refill?” she said loudly.

Ray looked at her puzzled for a moment. He was about to say he’d had enough caffeine for now, but Heather winked at him. “Get ready to run,” she hissed. “I’ll slow Mr and Mrs Perfect here down.”

“Thank you, more coffee would be lovely,” trumpeted Ray.

Heather walked up to the counter, passing close to the Domination people. She didn’t look at them, but she could feel their blue eyes on her.

“Two large black coffees, please.”

The counter assistant handed them over. Heather paid and began to walk back with a mug in each hand. She saw her father poised for taking off. She came to Domination’s table. She paused by it. The man and woman looked up at her, intently.

“Here. The coffee’s on me!” cried Heather, and she flung the scalding coffee into their laps.

Pandemonium broke out. The pair leapt up, shouting in pain and shock. Heather had the presence of mind to tip the table over on them too, knocking them down, before she took to her heels with her father. The counter staff began yelling. Out of the corner of her eye, Heather saw the two lurking Domination members in the mall start to run after them.

But she and Ray had a good few metres’ start. If they could just get themselves out of the shopping centre, they’d be able to lose themselves in the crowd outside. The exit wasn’t far. But then disaster struck. Ray’s shoelace had unravelled and sent him flying. Heather could hardly believe he’d fallen over for the second time that day. She stopped and turned back to help him, but he roared at her to leave him.

For a fraction of a second Heather hesitated, uncertain what to do. She didn’t like to desert her father, but the Domination guys were onto them. He was right – she had to go. So with a last despairing look at her father, she turned and fled.

She didn’t stop running for at least five minutes. She barged her way through the shoppers, who grumbled complaints at her. She wove in and out of the crowd until at last she had to pause for breath. She chose a busy corner, close to a flower stall, to stop and take stock.