The (new) journey starts here

I read somewhere recently that debut author Kathryn Stockett queried 60 agents before one of them finally saw the worth of her novel The Help. Yada yada yada…it’s now spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and has been made into a major motion picture. Especially as The Help has been my favorite novel so far of 2011, it was heartening to read that even a book as unique and wonderfully written as Stockett’s found it very, very difficult to see the light of day (or at least the light of Barnes & Noble.) I’m glad that she persevered and it’s given me renewed encouragement to pursue my own writing goals…even if I still have a bruise the size of a grapefruit from where the literary agents of America slammed their collective door in my snoz.

Although I didn’t query 60 agents, I did query 45 before deciding that nothing good was going to come from hitting my head against the brick wall of Traditional Publishing like an OCD patient with a noggin fixation. And now that I have decided to set out on the Yellow Brick Road to Self-Publishing, I find myself re-energized which is a good thing because self-publishing is not, I have rapidly discovered, for the feint of heart.

I’ve realized pretty quickly that it is a four-pronged approach.

1…Find an editor
I did some Googling (now that “Google” is a common-usage verb, do I still need to capitalize it…?) about self-publishing and the overwhelming consensus is that you really, really ought to seek out an editor to ensure that your manuscript is up to professional level. All readers are used to traditionally published books which have only made it to the bookshelves after MANY scrupulous word-by-word-by-exclamation point-by-quotation-mark editing processes and so your self-published book should too. If you don’t, then you run the very real risk of being written off before the end of page 3 as being an amateur. Ouch.

2…Find a self-publishing company
Who knew that there were so many? While there are several major players, there are actually several dozen who are willing to take your Word document and turn it into a real, live, honest-to-goodness book/eBook. A friend of a friend recently self-published his novel using CreateSpace, which is the self-publishing arm of and he told me it was a pleasant experience. Unless something unexpectedly off-putting happens, I’ll probably go with them. Why not stick with the strength, right?

3…Build a website
Just self-publishing a novel isn’t enough. People (i.e. the ones who aren’t on your Christmas card list) need to be able to discover you and for that you need to be googleable. And Google can’t find you if you don’t have any sort of web presence. 11 years ago I taught myself how to build a website for our Disney collectibles business. The result has been our very successful site. Unfortunately that was 11 years ago (which is like 120 in web years) and building a website now is a whole different animal than it was 11 years ago which means I’m virtually starting from scratch. This blog was made using WordPress which also allows you to build websites so that’s who I’m going to use.

4…Put together a marketing plan
“Build it and they will come” might work out fine if you’re Kevin Costner scooping out a baseball diamond in the middle of your cornfield but it doesn’t apply here. You have to get the message out so with that thought in mind, I’ve ordered three different books on the whole self-publishing experience.

As important as all that is, the top priority right now is finding an editor because, dear readers-to-be, I haven’t spent the last goddamn 4 years writing my novel for you to toss it aside by the end of page 3 thinking Ugh! I’ve been reading his lousy blog all year for…THIS…? Talk about needing ‘The Help.’


About Martin Turnbull

The Hollywood's Garden of Allah novels blog is by Martin Turnbull, a Los Angeles based historical fiction author writing about the golden era of Hollywood in his series of novels set at the Garden of Allah Hotel, which stood on Sunset Blvd from 1927 to 1959. Check him out at and Facebook: "gardenofallahnovels"
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2 Responses to The (new) journey starts here

  1. JW Manus says:

    Very interesting, Martin. I plunged into the self-publishing waters, and it’s been fun. I wasn’t the author, but still, it was a blast. A few tips about editors and finding one on the ‘net. There are essentially three types of editors: story editors, copy editors and proofreaders.

    Story editors look at the big picture. They check characters, plot, story arc and consistency. They look for holes in the story, missed opportunities and long-winded passages that should be cut. What you should expect from a story editor is an in-depth evaluation of your novel with suggestions about tightening, revising, and developing. You want a story editor who understands your genre and is sensitive to your style, voice and ambitions. Rather than flailing about the ‘net, I suggest you ask the same agents who passed on your novel for a referral to a freelance editor who’s familiar with your genre. If you find a name, see if you can get a consult. Some might do it for free, others might charge you an hourly fee. It’ll cost around $20-50 for them to read your synopsis and the first ten pages and give you an evaluation. Then you can evaluate the editor’s comments to see if he/she feels like a good fit.

    Copy editors work line by line, correcting grammar, cutting unnecessary words, tightening paragraphs, untangling tangled syntax. They also check style (preferred spelling, grammar quirks, spell out numbers or use numerals, etc). They also watch for consistency in the details such as making sure the guy named Mike in chapter one isn’t mysteriously renamed Mark in chapter five. Talented copy editors (worth their weight in gold) sometimes charge by the hour, others charge by the page. You might be able to work a deal for a flat fee. Have to get creative.

    Proofreaders are the nitpickers. Word by word, comma by comma. Many will charge a price per page. If your writing is very clean, maybe you can work out an hourly rate. A bright English student armed with the Chicago Manual of Style makes an excellent proofreader, and can be had cheaply, too.

    Many story editors also do copy editing. One person can wear both hats and do a good job. But always, always hire a proofreader. An extra set of eyes is essential.

    Whatever you do, stay the heck away from those cheese “consulting” outfits that promise to edit, format and upload for your book for about $300 and up. The only ones I’ve found essentially offer rudimentary proofreading and having read samples of their work, they don’t do a good job.

    A good editor is expensive, but worth every penny by helping you make your story the very best it can be.

    Good luck!

    Oh, and on my blog I have a link to a site for The Book Designer. It’s chock full of good information and links to even more information. Anything and everything (almost) you need to know about self-publishing.

  2. Pingback: The Building of a Website | Are you there publishers? It's me, Martin.

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