Authors In Our Midst/Writers Chatting Chapter 16

Welcome to another writers chat.  Today WereBear was gracious enough to write up her adventures in creating a print version of her book, Way of Cats:

Photo is of cover boy Reverend Jim posing with a proof copy. The book tells his story, too!

I got my paperback out on Amazon. And lived. Yes, it was often that tricky. But the result is excellent, so let me chop off some of that learning curve for you.

As a voracious reader who enjoys ebooks, I was surprised to discover that fully 80% of the market is still paper. Especially for non-fiction, like my cat advice book. The Amazon system does a good-looking trade paperback when it is supplied with the proper inputs.

Fortunately, Mr WereBear is an Art Director (like Marines, they never really leave) and made me an excellent cover. His advice is to download their template and pay close attention to all the margins of the different areas. The online preview software will give an error message if it finds anything amiss, and this let us iron out some bugs.

Amazon offers cover creator software for free, but my Art Director found them aesthetically offensive. They also all tend to look alike. I find myself avoiding such covers as signs of an amateur approach I’ve found reflected in the writing. In such cases, readers do judge a book by its cover! If you have no such art skills, fellow Jackal jacy is an excellent choice, with reasonable rates. I hired her for a quick, tricky, thing when the Art Director’s chronic illness flared up. She’s so responsive and easy to work with. I also love her covers.

Another hill to climb is the decision to get an ISBN or let Amazon handle it. Be aware that the free one from Amazon is only good within Amazon. We went to Bowker for the official US ISBN for my book, and then paid again to turn it into a bar code. Then paid for another bar code when I screwed up the math and we had to change the price of the book. Amazon does supply the printing costs, and I suggest using a spreadsheet to get the math right. :)

Another issue with printed copies is that someone will need to go through it, in Word or Pages, to create a table of contents. Both of these programs will let you highlight a chapter title, choose the format type “Chapter Title”, and then it will show up in an automatically updating Table of Contents.

Amazon lets you download a template for the inside, too, and I highly recommend it. There’s so many details that pasting chapters into the template will save time, because the margins, page numbers, and various formatting types have been set up for you. My Art Director said people shouldn’t mess with the basics too much.

In other words, don’t get jiggy with those fonts, people. You want the reader to enjoy your words, and not let the formatting get in the way.

Once everything is loaded into the Bookshelf, there’s the option to download a PDF version of the entire book. TAKE IT. It is set up in double page style, looking exactly as it is supposed to print, and I borrowed a different computer to read it like it was the first time, and I found stuff to fix.

You will find stuff to fix. Use PDF markup to track errors to fix in the word processing document. I found that seeing it this way “reset my head” and I was able to fix all kinds of things which had gotten by myself and two other people in previous run-throughs.

At the very end, before releasing it into the wild, there’s the option of ordering a proof copy or two. TAKE IT. We discovered that our photos (black and white and optimized) lost some definition on the cream paper we had chosen. We changed our settings to white paper, with a glossy cover, and it looks great. We’ve gotten compliments!

It’s a mental gear change that doesn’t come up with ebooks, where what we can do is limited by ebooks’ ability to change font, size, and flow on the device, and there’s software that does a lot of things, like Table of Contents, for you. But with readers wanting “something to hold in my hand”, all that extra effort adds up to extra readers.

That’s what we all want.

Some important links: Bowker    and    Alchemy Book Covers

Thanks, WereBear!

Time to chat.

I’m about ready to add my Havana trip adventures to the second book in my trilogy.  I’ve been having a rough time focusing on writing these days. Not exactly writer’s block, more like ennui. I love writing, but right now, I’d rather be outside walking the dogs, or doing almost anything else. I have a desire to slap myself and say “Snap out of it!” à  la Cher in Moonlighting and just get back to it. I suspect that might not be the best approach.

How do you handle dissatisfaction and/or a block in your writing? Where is everyone at on their projects? Any questions for WereBear?

Have at it! Be kind.


46 replies
  1. 1
    gammyjill says:

    I just bought the Kindle version for $9,95 (rather than “borrow” it for free). It looks very good. I’ll write a review on Amazon and Goodreads.

  2. 2

    I have to duck out for a bit, but I’ll check back in.

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    Were Bear, that’s a good looking book, and a helpful description of the process. May you have a million readers.

    TaMara, usually I set a schedule for my writing and just plug along even when I feel uninspired. For me, that tends to happen when I’m in the middle of drafting. The excitement of the beginning is long ago, and the end seems miles away. The funny thing is, when I look back the stuff I felt uninspired to write doesn’t look all that different from the other stuff. Hm. Maybe that’s bad!

    One time, I did have to let a book go for a while because I felt blind panic every time I sat down to write it. I could write other things but not that. That lasted about a month and then I got an idea to fix something in it, and cautiously went back to work on it.

  4. 4

    Two offers:

    1. Is anyone interested in writing a guest post for my blog? I’m running short of ideas. It could be about anything even tangentially related to writing. I post on the second and fourth Monday of every month, so you could even pick your date if you want to tie your post to a book event. I get maybe 90-100 hits for each post. If you’re interested, you could email me at dawinsor (at) dawinsor (dot) com.

    2. Amazon is currently running a kindle countdown on FINDERS KEEPERS. It’s 99 cents until March 26. The central character is 12, and since kids like to read about older kids, it’s classified at middle-grade rather than YA. I find that many adults don’t differentiate much between MG and YA, since reading about someone older than themselves is no longer a priority. :-)

  5. 5
    WereBear says:

    @gammyjill: oooo, thanks!

    @Dorothy A. Winsor: Middles can be tough, and the middle of a trilogy might be more so.

  6. 6

    Does anybody know anything about writing query letters? I have something I’d like to get published, but I’m a little–O.K., a lot–intimidated by writing a query letter.

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    @Dorothy A. Winsor: Seconded. Schedule it, do it whether you feel like it or not. Exercise works the same way. Because I rarely if ever feel inspired to workout.

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    At the very end, before releasing it into the wild, there’s the option of ordering a proof copy or two. TAKE IT.

    Excellent advice, and then make sure people who haven’t seen it yet get a gander. Nothing beats a fresh pair of eyes.

    What a great post, thank you for the knowledge capture.

  9. 9
    Ruckus says:

    I used to create, edit and publish 5 different rulebooks every year for the professional sport I worked in and it was far easier when I was able to use Quark, a professional publishing program. But this was expensive, almost $900/seat. Worth every penny for the job though. The company also did a monthly full color mag, about 80 pages a month with Quark. Quark would take word processor files and put them in the proper book format. And I could then send that to the printer, who was then able to print the book directly. Much cleaner, far cheaper for the printing because there was no typesetting and all the different books had exactly the same layout and all the sections which had to be word for word the same were. Which they hadn’t been before. What WereBear describes sounds very similar. There was a learning curve of course but I didn’t find it to be all that difficult and I’d never done this type of work prior.

  10. 10

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et al.): Query letters are the devil, surpassed in awfulness only by the synopsis. Are you talking fiction? Here’s some useful advice for that. Actually if you google, you’ll find lots more.

    Non fiction is a whole different ballgame. For that, you apparently have to write a proposal.

  11. 11
    Monala says:

    Ok, maybe not kind, but not trying to be mean, either. I bought John Manchester’s mystery novel, Never Speak, on Kindle based on recommendations here. I’m enjoying it, but finding myself tripped up by a huge stumbling block: the book’s timeline.

    The story’s protagonist reads an obituary about his ex-wife, and recalls their earlier years in a cult together. Hurting financially, he decides to write an expose about the cult, and finds himself under threat. Intriguing concept, and it’s well-written.

    However, there is a lot of timeline wonkiness. He hasn’t seen his ex in 30 years. They met when she was a grad student, he a member of a band. Her obit says she left behind a loving (second) husband, and daughters ages 13 and 10. He gives us a date for their first encounter with the cult leader: 1972. Technology described in the book seems to indicate being set in the present day, or at least the last decade.

    A grad student in 1972 would have been born around 1950. She’d be 60 in 2010, 69 today. She has kids ages 13 and 10??

    Protagonist hasn’t seen his ex in 30 years, which, if set in the present, means 1989. So they spent 17 years in the cult?

  12. 12
    Ruckus says:

    How do you handle dissatisfaction and/or a block in your writing?

    When I had the job described above writing was part of it, the rule books, rule reviews, bulletins. Other than the rule books, which had a hard deadline, none of it was scheduled, it would just come up in the course of business. So sometimes it just came at a bad time to actually write, as I’d also be on the road. A lot. So what I’d do was just sit and write. If it came out good – good. If it came out bad, at least it was a starting point or a direction not to go in. But one has to honest and sometimes brutal about your own output. But if you don’t like what you created, it probably isn’t what you wanted to say. But what not to do can be as important as what to do.

  13. 13

    I can announce that preorders for A Rag Doll’s Guide To Here And There are FINALLY out. My old publisher turning predatory was Hell. It feels a lot better to have a new one and a book being published. It should release on April 8th. Wish me luck!

  14. 14
    Ruckus says:

    What if the protagonist has mental issues such as multiple personalities? And or his timelines are all screwed up? Would that change how this seems?

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    @Dorothy A. Winsor: It’s amazing how little I can manage to write during my scheduled time, LOL. I finally used it to reread and edit what I’d already written, figuring that might refocus my energies. We’ll see if it worked. It does help i have lunch every other week with my editor, who is good about gently prodding me about deadlines.

  17. 17

    @Frankensteinbeck: That sounds wonderful. Congrats! And of course, remind me and we can do a separate writers chat with it if you want.

  18. 18
    WereBear says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: What happened to you was such a nightmare! Glad you are seeing daylight again.

  19. 19

    @TaMara (HFG):
    That would be awesome. Publicity is good, and this is an almost top 10,000 blog! Maybe next week?

  20. 20
    JoyceH says:


    a huge stumbling block: the book’s timeline.

    I wonder if the book was actually written earlier? I ran into a timeline issue with the first book I self-published. I published it in 2012, but it was a book I wrote in the 1990s. Problem was that I’d been making it all ‘high tech’ – for the 90s. Car phones and e-mail listservs. And if I brought it up to the present, my characters would be too old, since the backstory was about the Vietnam war. So I decided to just keep it set in the 90s, and wrote a present day prologue and epilogue.

    Then I wrote a sequel, and let me tell you, writing a book set in the near past without anachronisms is a lot harder than going back a couple centuries!

  21. 21
    JoyceH says:

    As a voracious reader who enjoys ebooks, I was surprised to discover that fully 80% of the market is still paper.

    I keep seeing stats like that and have to wonder – once you have your book out in paperback, how do you get readers to find it? I’ve got paper copies available of all my regencies, but only seem to sell a couple a month.

  22. 22
    opiejeanne says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: I’m so glad for you! I will order one today.

  23. 23
    Derelict says:

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et al.):

    Having been on the receiving end of many query letters, here’s a few tips:

    Take the time to proofread your letter. All of it. When the first thing the editor sees is “Greatings, editur!”, your letter is going in the trash. A query letter filled with typos, misspellings, poor grammar, and so on tells the editor that your work is going to be a lot of work for him or her.

    Keep it simple, short, and direct. Novel-length letters do not get read, so try to boil it all down to as brief and cogent a description as possible.

    Do take the time to find and follow whatever directions the publisher provides. If the publisher demands query letters be written and submitted as a PDF, don’t send yours in Sanskrit on plates of half-inch thick marble.

    And make sure that what you’re pitching aligns with what the publisher normally does. Do not send your pitch for the Great American Novel to a publisher who specializes in books on NASCAR.

    These things seem like common sense, but I can tell you scores of stories about hopeful writers who sent me query letters and broke all these rules and more.

  24. 24
    opiejeanne says:

    @WereBear: I’m going to buy an extra copy for my sister; she’s down to just one cat now but it should help her understand him.

  25. 25
    WereBear says:

    @JoyceH: once you have your book out in paperback, how do you get readers to find it?

    I do all my own marketing. It helps that the blog has been popular for a while, and I’m making progress on Twitter. Mr WereBear helms Facebook.

  26. 26
    CarolDuhart2 says:

    @Monala: And 17 years in a cult is long enough to be disillusioned and learn yummy secrets as well. His ex has either married someone younger with kids, had a surrogate have them, or like I said, they were adopted.

    One challenge he would have would be updating everything in his book. A lot of the people he would have written about are dead, or out. Do you go out and interview them to correct the book, or let it be and hope enough stuff is current to still be relevant and interesting?

  27. 27
    Mnemosyne says:

    I’m super unproductive right now because I have some major revisions to make and I’ve never really revised a novel before. I’ve revised screenplays, but never novels, I’m very freaked out that all of the decisions I’ve made about what needs to be revised are wrong and I’m going to ruin the book, so I just don’t do anything at all.

  28. 28

    @Mnemosyne: If only there was a right way and someone would tell us! I like revising but it is nerve wracking. The problem is that if I feel like there’s something weak about an area, I’m probably right. It’s just knowing what to do about it .

  29. 29
    opiejeanne says:

    @Mnemosyne: I hear you. I’ve gotten to the point in revising my novel, about halfway through, and there are a couple of chapters that either need to be drastically rewritten or trashed. Up to that point the story moves along pretty well, but what’s making it especially tough is writing the character of a young black girl who was raised as a pet by a wealthy white family and is suddenly freed at age 13, her attitudes, her reactions, etc. I don’t think I’ve made her angry enough yet, I think I’ve sugar-coated her reactions a bit but I’m too close to the work right now and have had to take months off before tackling it again. Martha wasn’t a main character until about the fourth chapter and then suddenly she’s as important as the main character the book is supposed to be about. She’s based on the life of a real woman, raised in those exact circumstances. I may have to change the working title to include her, her journey becomes that important.
    Family stories about Martha remind me of the redemption part of The Scarlet Letter, at the end of the book when the A has come to stand for Able (and other positive traits that start with an A) rather than Adulterer. Martha’s portrayed by the family as almost saintly, but I’ve seen the photos of her at a church meeting, standing a little separate from the white folks in the picture. She’s caught between worlds, between heaven and hell, and I’m not sure if I’ve captured that.

  30. 30
    opiejeanne says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor: This! Do I remove the silly ghost story I wrote for a character to entertain some children with while they’ve been removed from their home because their mother is having a disastrous miscarriage, or do I leave it in because it’s fun?
    Also, I’ve noticed that none of this family, none of their relatives, cousins, aunts, uncles grandparents play an instrument of any kind. They are not fiddlers like Pa in the Little House books, and this is definitely not a Little House book. People are killed, murdered by Bushwackers, shot by a child defending another child.

  31. 31
    WereBear says:

    @opiejeanne: this is definitely not a Little House book

    First one was a real memoir, and not a Little House book either.

  32. 32
    Middlelee says:

    I love the print version of “Way of Cats.” Waited what seems like forever to get it but probably it was a reasonable amount of time. After reading all the info on how to publish through Amazon I’m so glad I waited.
    The book is so helpful with my 17-year-old cat with kidney failure. Thanks to Way of Cats I’m a much better mother and friend to the demanding and curmudgeonly Jake.

  33. 33
    Lurker3000 says:

    Werebear, just bought your paper book (have been waiting for it but didn’t get the alert I thought I’d set….) I was interested to read that Rev. Jim was a feral–still trying to get the two doubters to trust me completely. One is indoors now, but still just tolerates me. Early on I did take away two sets of her kittens, so not too surprising. Outdoor guy is always wary despite 7 plus yrs of sleeping on heating pad in his shelter and arriving reliably for meals. Hoping to get some tips from your book. The book looks fantastic: the three companions, plus one semi- and one full-feral will benefit greatly I hope.

  34. 34

    @Monala: @Monala: Monala, Author of Never Speak here. I’m sorry you’re struggling with the timeline. As someone guessed down thread, I started writing the book 13 years ago. So the book is set in the mid-aughties, if not a little earlier. I should have made that clear.

    But 17 years in a cult is nothing. The book was inspired by my own time in a cult—twenty years.

  35. 35

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et al.):
    YOu might find something useful in this Balloon Juice post I wrote about my grueling query letter quest:
    The short of it is that I studied a lot online, then hired TWO query letters editors. And then there’s the Query Shark: She’s an agent who I’ve emailed with who critiques query letters. She’s very tough and very funny. You can learn a lot from her archives.

  36. 36
    StringOnAStick says:

    @WereBear: I absolutely love your book. I thought I knew cats, now I know an incredible amount more and out 1.5 year old sisters are benefiting greatly.

    ETA they both look a lot like Rev. Jim.

  37. 37
    Miss Bianca says:

    Thanks for the wicked good advice, WereBear! And I’ve been recommending your book to all my friends with cats who are asking “how do I -” or “what does THIS mean – ” questions. I can lead those cats to water, but I can’t make them drink, so I don’t know if they’ve actually bought it, but I have been plugging it!

  38. 38
    WereBear says:

    @Middlelee: @StringOnAStick: Thanks, I am thrilled to hear!

    I wanted to have something for newbies and veteran Cat Apprciators.

  39. 39
    WereBear says:

    @Miss Bianca: I appreciate it it very much. Word of mouth is 99% of where I am now. It’s the best!

  40. 40

    Personal writing status: Blocked. Big time.

    Stress at work contributing to part of it. Just feeling monstrously depressed.

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  42. 42
    WereBear says:

    @PaulWartenberg: On Writer’s Block by Victoria Nelson is the best book I’ve read on the subject.

  43. 43
    JoyceH says:


    Personal writing status: Blocked. Big time.

    Stress at work contributing to part of it. Just feeling monstrously depressed.

    I was blocked for like a year. But I read something that said to give yourself permission to only write fifteen minutes a day. For some reason, that worked. I don’t always write just fifteen minutes, but knowing I don’t HAVE to write more than that seems to be a pressure reliever. I set a timer. And you can actually churn out a book in a few months just writing fifteen minutes a day.

  44. 44
    WereBear says:

    @JoyceH: Taking pressure off is always a good creative tactic.

  45. 45
    Monala says:

    @JOHN MANCHESTER: thanks for filling me in. I’m looking forward to finishing.

  46. 46

    Coming in late, but wanting to thank one and all for good advice and encouragement, and especial thanks to generally for maintaining this recurring feature.

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