Writer Resources: Polgarus Studio Formatting

Formatting a book is something that a lot of self-published authors attempt on their own, and not always for the better. It appears that many are well suited for it, or at least are able to do it well enough, while others experience headaches and turn out a book that doesn’t look exactly right, or as professional as one would hope. While I’m usually a pretty quick study when it comes to computery things, the last thing I wanted to do in getting this book ready was to take on all the tedium and possible nightmares of book formatting in addition to all the other responsibilities a self-published author has.

Thankfully, I found Polgarus Studio.

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Polgarus Studio is a company that provides editing and formatting services for both ebook and print versions of your book. While I have not worked with them for editing, I was pleased to find how easy, quick, and affordable their formatting services were. Considering all the stuff you have to get right when turning a Microsoft Word document into an ebook and also an interior print PDF, these guys could not have done it more quickly or for a better price. In fact, in their FAQ, they pose the question to themselves: “Why are you so cheap?” and answer, “Because we have developed a work flow that allows us to work quickly and efficiently (one advantage to working in HTML). And because we don’t believe in charging $150 an hour just because it’s a computer-related task!”

These guys have worked with the best; a quick look around their website will find testimonials from bestselling authors like Hugh Howey and others. If it’s good enough for Hugh Howey, it’s good enough for me.

They also work back and forth with you until you’re happy. I was very pleased to work with them, and I would recommend these guys to any self-publishing author who is not ready to take on for themselves the daunting challenge of book formatting. I don’t have personal experience with their editing, but I suppose that one could expect the same level of professionalism in that as well.

If you have a manuscript ready, go ahead and get a quote from them; I am willing to bet it will be much lower than you expect, considering the work that it would take for you to do it yourself. They are quick and professional and had no trouble working with them.

Writer Resources: Design for Writers

As I wrap up all my loose ends before I’m ready to publish When the Watcher Shakes, I want to keep featuring some of the great people with whom I’ve had the privilege to work and who helped me get my book all spruced up and ready for the world. If you missed the last post on David Gatewood’s editing services, and you are thinking about self-publishing, hit that one up after reading this!

Today I want to send some props and kudos and warm fuzzies to Rebecca and Andrew at Design for Writers! At the moment of this writing, their website is still under maintenance. I think they’re planning to get that website up and running very soon, too–perhaps even before this blog post is scheduled to go live. So go ahead and click on that link, just to be sure. And if it’s still not ready, and you’re looking for a great deal on an exceptional cover designer, leave your email address for them to get in contact with you. You can see some examples of their work over at their Facebook page. I almost passed on them because there wasn’t a working website, but I left them my email anyways, and after talking to them and looking at their portfolio, I decided to hire them. I’m very glad I did!

They are top notch folks. Professional and thorough, I always got the feeling that they were trying everything in their power to make sure we ended up with a cover that satisfied me, fully captured the mood and idea in the story, and had appeal and was intriguing to potential buyers. I think they were successful on all accounts, too. We communicated well together, and the process was actually way more enjoyable and exciting than I could have imagined. The whole time, I felt like I we were all on a team together. They also were one of the most reasonably priced designers out there, especially for the quality they produce. Please go to their Facebook page to check out their portfolio, but before you do, why don’t we take another look at the cover they made for my upcoming book 🙂

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Gorgeous, right? I recommend these guys to anyone who is looking for a quality cover designer who is easy to work with and won’t cost you your entire publishing budget. Worth every penny and then some.

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Writer Resources: David Gatewood

The term self-publishing is somewhat misleading. The name on the front of the book is not the only person who had a hand in getting that book to the point where it was ready to be sold. When I decided to go this route, I decided that even if I didn’t make much money, I was going to make something that I would be proud of, something professional and as free from defect as possible. To do this, I was going to have to invest in my book by outsourcing some services. The biggest expense, but probably the most important of these, was copyediting.

Copyediting (a.k.a. line editing) is more than just proofreading. A good copyeditor goes through your manuscript looking for ways to improve the flow and style as well as fixing grammar, spelling, and typographical mistakes. I knew it would be a big expense, but I knew that I needed another set of professionally trained eyes on this thing.

Enter David Gatewood, freelance editor. I was first pointed his way by bestselling self-published author/guru Hugh Howey’s old website. Hugh Howey used to have a little “author’s toolbox” feature on his website that shared a lot of the great people he would hire for his books. He’s since revamped his website/blog, and while he still posts a lot of helpful information on there, I can’t find for the life of me find that author toolbox link anywhere. Fortunately for me, when I first started looking into editors and such, I saw David Gatewood’s name in there and wrote it down in my notes.

Gatewood was a pleasure to work with. He is professional while still being down-to-earth and friendly. Both of these things are extremely important to me. On the one hand, you  need someone who takes the job seriously and won’t worry about hurting your feelings when something needs changing. On the other hand, you want someone who sees the value in your story, and isn’t negative or condescending when suggesting a correction, because you want to feel like the editor is on your side, trying to improve your work, not trying to mock it. David is awesome to work with.

Some of you writers might think that something like this is too expensive, that you’ll just do it on your own. After all, you’re a writer, which means there’s probably a good chance you’re good at using the English language. And if not, you probably have a grammar Nazi friend to whom you could send your manuscript for a look-over. Listen, I consider myself about as grammar police as they come, but David really knows his stuff, and I really needed an objective set of eyes on this thing. I couldn’t believe how much of my writing needed correction. He really helped a lot of places where my writing was weak, and he caught all sorts of mistakes that I made–and I swear I read this manuscript until my eyes were bleeding! And so did my wife! So please, if you are serious about self-publishing, I implore you to hire a copyeditor. And if you’re going to do that, I don’t think you can do much better than David Gatewood.

Visit David Gatewood’s website: http://lonetrout.com/

I finished the Scrivener tutorial today…

I downloaded the free 30-day trial of Scrivener to see how it might help me in organizing and composing my next novel (no, I haven’t started on it…pooh on those 2016 goals–but I still have plenty of time!).

First loading it up, everything was foreign and overwhelming. Imagine loading up Microsoft Word for the first time, but with more features and less intuitive interface (note–it’s not a good thing to compare Scrivener with Word, since they are basically meant for different tasks).

To give you a better idea of how confusing it is at first, let me tell you that I consider myself a pretty tech-savvy type of guy. I was raised on DOS, for crying out loud, and even that seemed easy enough for me to get a basic understanding of using some quick guides and trial-and-error. I even went through a MS QuickBASIC programming phase when I was twelve. I’m no dummy, in other words (even if Windows 8 makes me feel that way–Linux is easier to use than that garbage!). I’m not the type of person who has often needed to consult help files, but I knew if I was going to get anywhere with this, I needed something.

Fortunately, Scrivener comes with a built-in tutorial that is thorough enough to get you started and make you confident of your knowledge (but I realized as I finished the tutorial that there is so much more it can do that I haven’t discovered yet since I haven’t started using it for my own projects).

I just finished the tutorial today. I am totally stoked about this program (you can tell I started using computers in the late 90s since I still say “program” instead of “app” most of the time). All the time I wasted writing my first novel copy/pasting to re-order sections and having to re-number every single chapter over and over when I would cut or add content is enough to convince me that I need Scrivener. And being able to reorder your chapters with ease is only scratching the surface of its capability! You can reformat your entire manuscript with nearly limitless possibilities, according to whatever formatting requirements you have to deal with! I can hardly wait to start using it, and I will certainly pay the measly $45 to extend the trial to the full licensed product (the features stay the same when going from the trial to the licensed program; the difference is that the unlicensed trial expires after 30 days). Forty five dollars?!? I paid more than that on a dated version of Office for Mac!

The only concern I have is how well it converts from its native formatting to Word. I’ve read that you have to be consistent in your structuring, and if you do that, it should be a pretty smooth transition. But we’ll see. Otherwise, I’m totally onboard with this. I will be writing my next novel in Scrivener. I’ll let you know how it goes.

As of right now, though I haven’t started using it other than completing the tutorial, I would recommend this product, with one disclaimer: download the free version and go through the tutorial before you buy it. It isn’t for everyone. I would also go as far to say that if you only are writing short stories, while there is a lot of useful stuff in the flexible formatting features when you compile a project, I’m not convinced it’s really worth the money until you are writing longer, chapter-based projects. But it’s up to you if you want to get it for short works alone. Whatever you do, you have the opportunity to try it free for 30 days to decide whether you like it or not, without even entering any payment info, and that seems like a no-brainer to me. I would definitely take advantage of that rather than buying it up front and finding out that you don’t like it or it’s not worth the trouble of learning to use.

Also, as of this writing (3/2/2016), nobody from Scrivener has ever contacted me, provided me with any free products, or even knows that I exist (not that I wouldn’t appreciate any handouts, if any of you Literature and Latte people are reading this). I’m only posting this because I think other writers might be interested in this and would benefit from my recommendation. Check it out, it’s free for 30 days! if you don’t like it, you don’t even have to cancel anything, it just cancels itself unless you opt in.

As for me, I’m opting in.

PS – I’m still not sure how to pronounce “scrivener.” Is it a long i or a short i sound?

UPDATE (3/3/16): It’s a short i.

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Writer Resources: The Horror Tree

It’s time for another segment of Writer Resources! Last time, I told you about The (Submission) Grinder, a website that helps fiction authors find markets and keep track of their submissions. Since I love writing short stories, today I have another recommendation for the short story writers out there, specifically those who like to write in the horror and scifi/fantasy genres: The Horror Tree blog.

horror-tree Continue reading

Writer Resources: The (Submission) Grinder

For you short story writers out there, you know the pain of trying to find the right markets to submit your stories to, how hard it is to keep track of each submission, how hard it is to figure out when to expect a response. Sure, there’s Duotrope, which is great, if you want to pay for it, but I’m willing to bet that most of you short story writers are like me and don’t have the spare cash to pay for a service like this, or if you do, you’d rather not. Well, there’s a solution, and it’s called The Grinder.

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Continue reading

Writer Resources: The Author Hangout Podcast

I love to read, but when it comes to how-to, news, or other non-fiction information, podcasts are my jam. You can listen to them on the way to work, while you’re eating breakfast, while you’re washing the dishes, cooking–I could go on. It’s just about the most convenient way for me to absorb current, interesting, helpful information in a way that fits better into my schedule. I could do a whole blog post about how much I love to listen to podcasts and which ones I think you should check out, and because my interests are so diverse, most of them wouldn’t be related to writing or publishing at all.

But this one is.

In fact, the podcast I want to tell you about today is probably the single greatest influence on my journey to self-publishing. Continue reading